Skittles on the Ground is a data visualization project that shows how many children and teenagers are being directly impacted by gun violence incidents in one year by using data from the Gun Violence Archive. Despite the disconnection, the three pieces come together as one through the “bullets”, which cross over from piece to piece, ending with a depiction of Trayvon Martin. Although Trayvon is only one of the many children who have been a victim of gun violence, he is a symbol and figure that is recognizable to all audiences. The material, Skittles candy, was chosen to convey the data for two reasons. First, when Trayvon Martin was killed, he lay on the street with recently bought skittles scattered around him. Second, they represent the innocence of children. Each piece has 2,939 skittles, representing the number of children and teenagers killed or injured in one year. There is a juxtaposition of the soft, sweet material representing the cold, hard, and blaring number of children killed or injured in the United States each year.
In the initial sketches, one of the selected concepts was consisted of lollipops. However, due to its popularity amongst the young generation in the U.S. I wanted to use Skittles, abrand of fruit-flavoured sweets, currently produced and marketed by the Wrigley Company instead of lollipops. In fact, the candies’ circular shape provides more freedom in which to experiment and use creatively.
Additionally, Skittles became a symbol after Martin’s death due to the fact that the candies were found at the crime scene. Using skittles helped me represent not only a specific group of people, but also Trayvon Martin’s case. Therefore, the two concepts in my initial sketch are able to be combined and represent the incidents in an effective way.
There are three layouts depicting a gun, the numbers of the incidents and Martin’s face. These pieces were also designed to interrelate each other by using bullet flow on the top of the artwork. While designing the visuals, only 5 colors were considered since the artwork will be created by using only candies. To represent the number of the incidents, 2939 dots are employed to visualize the concept.
The visualization was exhibited in the Gulfstream Building at Savannah College of Art and Design. The three pieces are located on the ground in order to create a sense of injury and death. Every piece has 2939 skittles in order to represent the number of the gun violence incidents in 2014 in the United States. To have this quantity, every piece must be 50 x 35 inches. The general size of the artwork is 150 x 35 inches.The visualization was selected to be exhibited and held in high regards at ArtPrize 2017, an open, independently organized international art competition and festival held annually in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Special thanks to Hannah Johnson, Shelly Johnson, Vivek Durgam, Furkan Bozgöz, Paola Baiz.