RI Artscape: Nothing To See Here (Yes There Is)

Mar 30, 2017

For this month’s Artscape, we visit an exhibit of politically-inspired work done by three local artists on display now at OneWay Gallery in Narragansett. 

The exhibit is called Nothing to See Here. It was inspired by a recent Time magazine cover by the same name, depicting President Donald Trump at his desk in a wildly stormy oval office, his hair blowing in the wind and being pelted by rain.

The title, of course, not meant to be taken literally says Warwick based artist Scott Moran.   

“To us, we feel that if someone says ‘nothing to see here’, that means to scrutinize it and to look into it as deeply as you can,” Moran explained.

Moran is identified as the curator of this exhibit, a mantle, he says, he wears very loosely.

“This was thoroughly a group decision process and I’d say curator only in title,” said Moran.

The other two members of this group are Tom West, based in Olneyville in Providence, and Jessica Cabral, of Charlestown, with a studio here at OneWay Gallery.

West says he’s made political art most of his career and being a war veteran gravitated his art in that direction.

“I feel like I was really pushed to do it inside, but I haven’t done it in many years, kinda doing it again for the first time, with the encouragement from Scott, and the gallery owner, they were like, get Tom in here, he really has stuff to say. I was honored to be invited,” said West.      

Cabral says she wouldn’t call her work political art.

“I guess I would say social justice would be a better way of describing, I think political creates associations and people think, oh it’s gonna be about Trump or it’s gonna be anti-Trump.”

Cabral says there are obvious liberal Democratic undertones in the exhibit but she encourages people who have different views or don’t know how they feel to visit and share their feedback.

“I think that’s what we all want more than anything really, is just to start that conversation,” said Cabral.

Cabral’s work is the first stop in the installation piece. You walk in and find yourself surrounded by countless swirling, shimmering paper snowflakes.

The installation is called “Liberal Snowflakes.” Cabral estimates 1,000 to 1,500 hand cut snowflakes were used.

“Basically this is my reclamation of the intended insult Liberal Snowflake that social media personalities have been throwing around, basically to say ‘stop whining’ ‘stop complaining’ about the issues that are relevant,” said Cabral.  “But to me it’s trying to silence groups that now have a stronger voice more than ever.”

Cabral says she wanted the viewer to feel overcome by the gentle power of the snowflakes and to appreciate the individuality of each snowflake. “Because we all have a detailed unique story to tell and you can’t put people into little boxes,” she explained.

"Liberal Snowflakes (Detail)," Jessica Cabral
Credit Courtesy of OneWay Gallery

Tom West’s piece, which consists of three big foam hands on the wall, orange, pink and blue, each making a different finger sign, labeled ‘refugees’, ‘gender’ and ‘racism.’

“Peace, Hang Loose, Middle Finger,” Tom West
Credit Courtesy of OneWay Gallery

West calls the piece “Peace, Hang Loose, Middle Finger.” He says he hopes to tackle far-right messages.

“The fact that refugees are considered terrorists is just insane to me, like, you know, be peaceful, treat these people like human beings. The gender issues in this country, you know, it’s like hang loose, Gender!, just relax, let people be what they feel like inside, and that should be the end of it.  And then, racism of course. That’s how I feel about racism. Middle finger. That’s all it gets.”

At the back of the gallery, one room is devoted to an installation by Scott Moran. It’s a haunting depiction of dozens of footprints stamped into muddy ground, suggesting that once there was much commotion and life moving through here, but now, just quiet left behind.

“Migration (Detail),” Scott Moran
Credit Courtesy of OneWay Gallery

Moran calls the installation “Migration.”

“It’s plaster and wood stains. Someone was here, and they’re no longer here, they’ve moved on, but there’s evidence of them. The migration of people across the planet right now, and how they’re handled, is of grave concern to me. And I view it as we can learn from it, because as sea level rises and climate change occurs and our coastlines erode, we’re looking at a displacement of billions of people. And if we’re unprepared for the current situation, which we obviously are, with 65 million or more moving around the world right now, how will we handle those numbers in the future? This piece helps to get us thinking about it.”

There’s a lot more to think about, and a lot more to see, at Nothing to See Here….OneWay Gallery, 140 Boon St. in Narragansett. Now until April 30th. You’re invited to a special artists reception Saturday April 1st, 5-8pm.