Michelle Costigan (Las Vegas)
Statement by the artist: Gun violence marked my initiation into adulthood. As an 18-year-old freshman art student at Northern
Illinois University (NIU) on 2/14/08, a gunman came onto our campus and opened fire in a lecture hall, killing five students and injuring several others before taking his own life. My sense of safety on campus – in my home – was taken away from me.
Good Mourning, Valentine was created on 2/14/12, my first Valentine’s Day off campus since the NIU shooting, as a means to represent the lasting effects of gun violence. The thing that got me through the first few years after this shooting was the strong sense of community, fueled by an understanding of shared experience, developed among the entire university in the wake of our Valentine’s Day Massacre. It was such a strange experience for me to be separated from the community who had gone through the same trauma and knew what this day felt like every year – filled with grief, memories, and residual anxiety. This piece was created to represent that sense of community, the white hearts representing the people who had died, the red hearts representing those that continue to live on in the aftermath of tragedy.
The effect of gun violence moves through each of us like a bullet to the heart. Since I created this piece over nine years ago, I have had to shelter-in-place at two different work settings due to active shooters, counseled my community through the aftermath of the largest mass shooting in America to
date (1 October 2017), been inundated with near daily reports of mass violence through the media, and listened as the people I love began to have their own personal experiences with gun violence. As a result, the meaning behind this piece continues to evolve. In a dreadfully beautiful way, that sense of community understanding continues to grow as gun violence becomes an everyday norm in our society. The white hearts on this piece now represent each life lost to gun violence and the red hearts
are all of us who remain, deeply wounded but continuing to courageously face each day with a sense of gratitude and connection to other survivors who, sadly, also know what this pain feels like. And we continue to move forward, together forward.
Shown here: "Good Mourning, Valentine" - Paper & yarn