In the early 1980's, Andy Warhol painted a variety of cult objects, including guns, knives, and crosses. Warhol rejected the idea that his work functioned as a social critic, and instead describes himself as an American artist, who is just a depiction of his environment. This description suggests that his paintings of guns were the same as his images of Campbell Soup, Marilyn Monroe or Coca-Cola, just as images of American icons.
Nevertheless, as with many of Warhol’s statements and works, there is the surface of things and then the multiple meanings below it. Gun ownership in America is very popular, particularly because it gives people a sense of security. Hollywood image and video games add to the allure of guns. The gun also, through its widespread use and availability in America, but an instrument of real and ordinary violence. This particular gun, the .32 snub-nosed pistol, is the type that Valerie Solanas used in her 1968 assassination attempt on Warhol. In his choice of such richly associative iconic objects, Warhol became a truly artful of social observers.