Photo: Steve Thurston
The ballyhooed photos of women bodybuilders from Arlington Arts Center were not the ones that interested me most once I finally took in “She Got Game,” the show that runs until March 18.
All of the galleries on the first floor of the center support the theme of “women in sport,” and of course, it being art, what’s shown makes us think and rethink the role of women in sports.
The work of Nancy Floyd in the Tiffany Gallery had me most entranced. Floyd has been shooting photos of women who shoot guns. Floyd captured them training for this summer’s Olympics in Colorado Springs, Colo.
What struck me was the machination of competitive shooting.
The photo above shows a woman wearing headgear that includes ear protection and blinders both over her left eye and to the sides, leaving her to look at the camera through a specialized sight over her right eye. The women wear oversized, leather shooting jackets; they have hats and bandanas to hold back their hair.
Their guns are not the sort you’d find at a gun store or even at a Virginia gun show. Modified for accuracy with wood blocks mounted to the metal stocks, special scopes and other equipment, they look somehow less lethal.
And computers. All the women train with computers by their sides tied into god-knows-what.
The artist’s notes talk about how these photos are taken during that moment of quiet before the shooting when the shooter must calm her breathing and thoughts before she pulls the trigger. And maybe that’s part of what I was seeing, that comfortable connection between person and machine.
There’s that great scene in To Kill a Mockingbird where Atticus Finch must shoot Tim Johnson, the rabid dog. Jem, Atticus’ son who is quite sure his father is the most boring man in the South, says to his sister, Scout, “‘d you see him, Scout? ‘d you see him just standin’ there...’n’...all of sudden he just relaxed all over an’ it looked like that gun was a part of him...”
I had that scene in the back of my mind while looking at the photos. It’s that odd mix of human and machine that captivated me, that part of me that knows these shooters must give over a part of themselves to the machine if they wish to succeed.
That is the idea I have come back to since seeing those photos. More and more, in all our lives, we must give part of ourselves over to the machine. This is no different than people have been doing since the first tool was produced, but I am one who is at least a little worried about the pace at which we do it now, and the level to which the machine might encroach.
I am not nervous that the machines will take over any time soon, just fascinated at how far they have come.
“She Got Game” features the work of 11 artists spread through various galleries at Arlington Arts Center. It runs through March 18 with a performance event Saturday March 17.