Cautious Optimism is an installation project inspired by the detours and walkways around ubiquitous construction sites, the inconvenience they pose and the anticipation they provoke. We are forced to heed the caution signs and walk through pedestrian walkways. On the way we are offered a chance to pause and gaze into the mysteries of the ongoing construction through small 12″ square viewing windows. We breath the dust, absorb the cacophony of banging, drilling and pounding. Barriers gradually are taken down, as the work in progress is replaced by a structure. Are we relieved? Pleased? Disappointed? Angry? Does experiencing it as art make a difference?
The first iteration of the project was realized in 2016 at Fitton Center for the Arts in Hamilton Ohio. Viewers were asked to participate by donning hard hats to enjoy the visual excitement, creativity and optimism of construction sites, while contemplating the effects of over-building and the voids left in its wake. Various groups – local residents, young children, high school and college students, groups of the disabled – came through. They each drew something different from the exhibit, and actually completed it. The work in the exhibit is derived from NYC images, yet it has a universal quality. The viewers confirmed that experiencing the exhibit highlights commonalities among regions, rather than differences.
8′ x 5′ “barrier paintings” lined the walls, forming one side of the walkway. Some contain “characters” abstracted from what might be seen through viewing windows – machinery, construction materials, tools, debris. Some depict the visual and actual interference with existing structures and trees. Mere ghosts remain. Hanging barriers looking like street barricades formed the other side of the walkway. A large barrier closed off the back of the gallery. Entrance was forbidden, but viewing windows afforded a peek at construction debris.
“Cautious Optimism” is meant to travel to other venues and locations.