When you picture Gulfport artist Ray Domingo’s work, you might think immediately of G. Gordon McFly.
The 14-foot gecko sculpture, installed one year ago along Gulfport’s waterfront, draws visitors and townies alike. His vibrant colors and textures are mixed with a touch of fancy, as the robust reptilian skims along on a skateboard, grooving to funky beats on his headphones. It’s a charming blend of whimsical and weird. It’s so Gulfport.
By contrast, Domingo’s new painting, “American Odyssey,” makes a bold statement about the gun violence debate in our society. But what exactly is that statement? The Gabber Newspaper asks the artist.
But with a new mixed-media painting, “American Odyssey,” Domingo’s gift for surprising juxtapositions turns in a far more somber direction. Viewers will instantly recognize the iconic, gently luminescent profile of the Statue of Liberty, angled upward against a black background.
However, instead of lighting the way with her trusty torch, she lifts an AK-47, widely cited as the world’s most abundant firearm, into the darkness. Crimson splotches of blood on her raised hand and on the stock of the gun catch your eye – the only color in the grayscale image. So does the delicate sparkle of tears welling in her eye.
It’s a shocking, sobering image. Especially in a country which leads the developed world in the prevalence of gun violence, and where questions surrounding gun ownership and regulation have become so bitterly divisive.
A Picture in a Drawer
The creative process for “American Odyssey” began, says Domingo, when he discovered a dynamic photo of Lady Liberty. With no idea of how it might figure into his work, he kept it in a drawer for years. Then inspiration struck.
“One day it hit me like a thunderbolt. With a concept ignited by current events,” he recounts, “the painting just had to happen.”
For Domingo, best known for his marine and wildlife paintings, “American Odyssey” also marks a return to earlier artistic interests such as portraiture and surrealism. And while the theme may be novel for many of his fans, he says, “there is nothing new in my desire to, every now and then, paint something unexpected.”
What Does It Mean?
When Domingo shared the image on Facebook in December 2022, viewers evinced a range of responses. Some praised the piece as powerful and thought-provoking, some saw it as affirming the right to bear arms, and some thought it harkened back to Eisenhower’s 1959 farewell address warning against the rise of a military-industrial complex. The unfolding conversation was an excellent reminder that all art carries the powerful potential for change – not only through reframing our view on the world, but also through the discussion it generates.
“I hope that this piece of art will, in a small way, simply spur on healthy, open-minded, open-hearted conversation among people on both sides of this issue,” wrote Domingo, in the Dec. 16 post. “So far, so good.”
Talk It Over
While the piece isn’t showing at present, people can view it at the Domingo Studio on Beach Boulevard South in Gulfport. There you might engage Domingo in a conversation about your own reaction. And why not? Because neighbors unpacking a tough issue together with candor and a spirit of community – that’s also pretty Gulfport.