CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Guen Montgomery found it quite strange to be confronted by signs in her building on campus urging her to “Run, Hide, Fight.”
So the printmaker and University of Illinois art professor turned her feelings of discomfort to making a woodblock carving project, “National Mandate: Run, Hide, Fight,” that is on display as part of the School of Art and Design Faculty Exhibition at Krannert Art Museum. Over the course of a month, Montgomery carved the words “Run, Hide, Fight” – instructions from Homeland Security on how to react to an active shooter – into a 4-foot by 6-foot piece of wood, while wearing a Civil War-era hoopskirt and military cap.
For the next phase of the project, Montgomery will make prints from the woodblock carving and flock them with black gunpowder. Her live-printing event will take place from noon to 4 p.m. Nov. 13 in an open field north of the Art and Design building at Fourth Street and Peabody Drive, Champaign.
“At first, I found (the signs) a little bit humorous, and then I found it a little bit sad,” Montgomery said. “It’s as innocuous as ‘Stop, Drop, Roll.’ I don’t like the feeling that it’s becoming every day, that it’s such a ubiquitous thing that we have to put up PSAs about it.”
She felt powerless in how to deal with campus shootings that have become so prevalent. The project became a way for her to talk about it and to catalyze conversations about it.
Montgomery’s background is in printmaking and performance, and she looks for ways to combine the two.
“There is a lot of performance to the process of making a print that is very satisfying to me,” she said.
She also liked the idea of carving the woodblock in public, in the gallery at Krannert Art Museum.
“Carving is sort of a violent activity. You’re hammering away and chiseling away and cutting away at this material,” she said, relating the activity to gun violence.
The costume was important, too.
“It sounds like the phrase, ‘Run, Hide, Fight,’ could come from an infantry manual. It sounds old-timey, in a call-to-arms kind of way,” Montgomery said. “The costume points that out.”
The costume also adds an element of absurdity, she said, and it and the gunpowder reflect on the idea of armed militias.
On Nov. 13, Montgomery – wearing a military costume borrowed from a Civil War re-enactor – will make prints on both paper and fabric. She’ll roll the woodblock with transparent printing base with the same texture and tack as ink, and hand-burnish the prints to transfer the transparent base to the paper. While it is still tacky, she’ll sift black gunpowder onto the surface, like glitter.
The gunpowder is a type that is used by Civil War re-enactors. It will not pose a safety hazard, nor will it be lit.
Montgomery will exhibit the prints she makes at the Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center in March 2016.
“I want it to be something that people have to come to terms with, that we have to have a readiness situation for an active shooter as we do for tornadoes,” Montgomery said of the “Run, Hide, Fight” directive. “I want them to feel the disquiet I feel.”