"Asif's Guns" to Sell Cardboard Firearms in a Pop-Up Gun Shop During Art Basel
"Will you mention my mom?" asks the 6-foot-and-1-inch tall Asif Farooq with a broad smile. He wears a black baseball cap on the back of his head, the lip pointing skyward at an angle, adding even more height to his massive build. Farooq, 33, exudes a playful energy, which belies his intimidating frame, not to mention word "Crazy" tattooed in cursive on the right side of his neck. It's no wonder when he walks down the stairs in the Design District building housing Primary Projects' gallery space, carrying a scale-sized model Tommy Gun made of thick cardboard, that he startles a woman walking around a corner. Carrying a cup of coffee and a notebook, she freezes in her tracks for a second. In a sincere, humble voice, Farooq says, "Excuse me, ma'am" and walks on, hand on the trigger of the old-time submachine gun made famous by Great Depression-era gangsters.
Courtesy Asif Farooq
Sitting crossed legged on the roof parking lot of the building one weekday afternoon, the Thompson on one side and fiddling with parts of a model of a Walther PPK, Farooq talks about his art background. He credits his mother for his first art lessons, who, though she most likely did not teach him how to design cardboard scale models of weapons, is part of a small team he has recruited to produce a stockpile of 300 guns ahead of a unique solo show as part of Art Basel Miami Beach 2012, just a few weeks away. "My mom does a little gluing," he says with a big laugh, covering his mouth with both hands before bending over and clapping them together, still laughing. "Yeah, she, um ... My mother's an artist, and she's what inspires me," he adds sincerely.
Farooq's formal schooling began with a vision to become a lawyer, studying political science and English at Florida International University. But, he says, he "wasn't happy with people who were going to grow up to be lawyers," and it was off to the Art Institute of Chicago, thanks to the encouragement of Elizabeth Hall, a Visual Arts professor at FIU.
But honing his craft happened elsewhere. While spending 10 years unemployed, and one building and repairing synthesizer keyboards, he struggled with drugs and the law. "When you're locked up and confined somewhere--and this is basically the story of my life--you kind of make stuff out of whatever's available, and paper's always available, wherever you go, right?"
He hesitates a bit to talk about his drug past, which included heroin (he's several years clean now). But he says he recognizes the opportunity to find distraction in his craft, and away from drugs, behind various locked doors. "Sometimes rehab, sometimes jail, sometimes mental hospital or something. You know... I ...," he pauses. "Sometimes that's what I would do, I would make little drawings, and it would always be either a gun or an airplane. These are the things I really like. I really like airplanes, and the guns are sort of fun to tote around and pull out on people."