Photography by Danny Fulgencio.
When he was 19, Scott Horn bought an AR-15 from a gas station in Nebraska, where his parents lived at the time.
“I went through a phase of being very heavily into gun culture, from about ages 16 to 21,” he says. “I ate it up.”
Now 40, he’s an Oak Cliff-based artist with a hand-tooled leather goods and accessories line called Wild Beast. Recently he exhibited leather artwork that makes a statement on American gun culture.
A friend from college asked him to participate in the show, “Capability,” at the Kirkland Arts Center in Kirkland, Washington. Graduate student Maggie DeFranco curated the show. She was a 17-year-old student at Newtown High School in Sandy Hook, Connecticut, in 2012, when a shooter killed 20 elementary-school students with a Remington Bushmaster AR-15. The group show “uses compassion and empathy to dissect the historical and contemporary contexts that address the questions: How did we get here? How do we move forward?”
Horn’s three pieces are heavily tooled, oversized gun holsters that read, “control,” “power” and “identity.”
Horn says he’s produced art about guns before, but he kept those pieces to himself because he didn’t want others to see them as glorifying guns.
“The question is, ‘Why can’t we have gun laws?’ ” he says. “Because we carry these oversized emotional connections to it, that gets in the way of having any meaningful conversation about it.”
Horn, an event designer for Shag Carpet props, has been making art for about 14 years. He picked up leatherworking after he inherited his grandfather’s tools. His grandfather tooled wallets, purses, belts and the like to sell at flea markets after retiring from his job as a machinist. He was also a gunsmith and could re-machine broken parts for guns. Sounds very Texan, but he lived in Pennsylvania.
It bothered Horn that leatherworking was this “flea-market” art form, and he wanted to elevate it. So he made 14 abstract tooled leather pieces for an art show in Dallas in 2015.
He thought they were beautiful, and he wanted to make them into something to wear, which is how he came to create Wild Beast. He hand-tools cuffs, belts, harnesses, key chains and other goods that are sold online and at Harkensback boutique in the Bishop Arts District.
Horn had about four months to make something for the show in Washington, and it took him almost three months just to come up with the concept, he says.
In the word “culture,” he took the “c” from the Colt logo. In “power,” he borrowed from the Browning logo. And for “identity,” he played on the National Rifle Association seal.
“That’s exactly what I think the NRA is now. It’s an identity,” he says. “You’re either in or you’re out, and it’s very hard-line. And I think they’re manipulating people for their own monetary gain.”
He says he remembers what it felt like to fetishize a firearm. He and his friends loved talking about their guns and “tough-guy stuff” together.
“When I picked up that AR-15, alone in my apartment, what did I really feel?” he says. “Power, ownership, a sense of control over things. Most of us don’t have very much control over our lives at all.”
“Capability” ended in April, but Horn says he is working to have his holsters shown in Dallas.