Protesters: 2011- present; ongoing project
The Protesters series of installations stems from my experience with the New York City Occupy Wall Street protests. I began making participatory chalkboard installations as a way to capture the ephemeral nature of discussions during the protests. I was attracted to the chalkboard because it is a highly symbolic utilitarian and contemplative object with a history of passing on information from one generation to the next. Unlike static images, drawing and writing on a chalkboard is constantly in flux and invites participation. On another level, the chalkboard represents the concept of emptiness as found in Eastern philosophy, a state of complete receptivity and oneness or non-ego-mind. The Protesters installations combine handmade chalkboards and photo transfers of Occupy Wall Street protesters with humble, impermanent materials like copy paper, reclaimed rags, plaster that flakes apart, cheap string, chalk, etc.
Visitors to Protesters are invited to draw on the chalkboards as participants/collaborators and their ideas are incorporated within my visual cacophony of imagery and objects. My goal is to create a space where viewers are engaged with the content of the exhibition, but where they also have the freedom to literally draw their own conclusions. This project is a way of sharing and prolonging the conversations I had during Occupy Wall Street and of communicating the power and importance of the events to those who may not have been there.
An important aspect of Protesters is my belief that art can bring people of varied beliefs and circumstances together around tough conversations when government and politics fail the citizens they are meant to serve. Evidence of this belief isn’t found within a heroic gesture by myself as an artist, but rather in the inner strength and creativity of the viewer who completes the artwork. This ongoing project allows me to explore how an artist can be a collaborative facilitator and have stewardship over a lasting social conversation. Early versions of Protesters were installed for Bushwick Open Studios, Brooklyn, NY, 2011; Deep Tanks Studio, Staten Island, NY, 2013; and The Gallery at the Ann Felton Multicultural Center, Syracuse, NY, 2015.
Since 2015 I have expanded the subject matter of Protesters to include climate change and ecological issues. For each project I use the same basic materials and rely on audience participation to complete the installation. I created the installations Geo-Co-Lab at Matteawan Gallery, Beacon, NY and The Problem with Water at the Garner Arts Festival, Garnerville, NY, both in 2017.
I hope to continue developing Protesters and to share it with new audiences. Every time this project is brought to a different location it evolves because of the ingenuity, wit, humor, and hopes of the audience/participants. When we come together, we exponentially expand our constructive potential and our inner strength. This series of projects has the ability to do good by focusing the collective lens on specific conversations about climate change, corporate greed, and the power of individual action.