“I was lucky to encounter art, because I had, on a psychological level, all it takes to become a terrorist. Instead of that I used the rifle for a good cause—that of art.”
For nearly ten years, from February 1961 to the beginning of the 1970s, Saint Phalle will performs more than twenty shooting sessions, which combine performance and body art, sculpture and painting. Most were filmed or photographed, and some were put on specifically for television. They followed a specific ritual: carefully chosen objects were filled with bags of colorful paint and attached to a flat surface, then covered with white plaster; the artist herself, other participants, or random bystanders then shot the piece, which was “created” with the help of a rifle. Upon seeing the first Shooting Painting, art critic Pierre Restany proposed that Saint Phalle join the Nouveaux Réalistes. The precociousness of these Shooting Paintings in the history of performance art, and their shocking nature have obscured their complexity. In fact, the Shooting Paintings had multiple meanings ranging from the staging of death to social and political critique, including feminist commentary.