This week’s Work on Monday examines one of three highly evocative pieces by Rossa Cole, displayed at artMRKT Hamptons over last weekend. This photographer cum fine artist is pushing all sorts of buttons with his sculpture that, while quietly executed, makes a very powerful statement.
Work on Monday is a weekly look at one piece of art related to the East End, usually by a Hamptons or North Fork artist, living or dead, created in any kind of media. Join the conversation by posting your thoughts in the comments below and email suggestions for a future Work on Monday here.
Sig Sauer 9mm
Rossa Cole (b. 1970, lives in Sag Harbor)
Found plastic beach trash washed up after Superstorm Sandy
Anyone who’s grown up on the East End, or even spent much time here, is well familiar with the kinds of detritus found on local beaches. The objects comprising “Sig Sauer 9mm” are immediately recognizable as beach trash—long-dead disposable lighters, empty shotgun shells, used tampon applicator, ketchup bottle top, cigarillo mouthpiece, Chap-Stick tube, et al—and speak on many levels by themselves, before one even begins to view the artist’s masterfully-crafted and near perfectly life-size gun.
The average East End viewer is nostalgic, revolted, frustrated and attracted all at once by the refuse. Cole’s collection of plastic feels somehow unique to South Fork ocean beaches, and there’s something endearing about that (they’re still sandy), but it also talks of pollution and the world’s losing battle with an ocean of crap that will never break down or go away. Now step back and consider the shape of it, the gun he presents, and our thoughts go elsewhere. Is the gun describing the dangers of plastic, litter and pollution? Is this an environmental piece?
Maybe. But there’s more to the story.
Cole’s choice to specifically recreate a Sig Sauer 9mm pistol is not random or based on the convenience of his materials. Rather, it is one of three guns in his series, each of which was used in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut last December. From here the emotional layers and connect-the-dots mental aerobics get pretty intense. Remember, the trash was collected after the very destructive Superstorm Sandy, which changed the Long Island and New Jersey shorelines, possibly forever.
Only Cole can say exactly what is part of his vision and what is incidental, but the connections and metaphors pile up pretty high. How many different ways can the viewer connect the environmentally destructive plastic trash to the economically and physically destructive storm that delivered it, and the horrific political lightning rod that was the Sandy Hook shooting? All three relate to “sand” but they also connect on a much deeper level.
With “Sig Sauer 9mm” the artist says so much, and his ideas are so big, yet the piece is humble and made with love and care. It is more bravura than bravado, and seeing this brilliant little work among the slick, the loud and the sensational gives it even more power to rise up and shine brightly above the nouveau, art-world chaff.
Visit Neoteric Fine Art’s website neotericfineart.com to see more of Rossa Cole’s work, including the other two guns in his Sandy Hook series.