Many speculated that winter would end the Occupy movement, but Salida artist Jimmy Descant says he thinks the movement will stay strong and he has decided to show his support by staging his own protest, Crutches As A Sign Of The Times Of Occupation, opening tomorrow night at Leon Gallery. The show features pieces made from crutches and signifies, says Descant, the many ways American soldiers may feel broken and how "bought-and-paid-for" politicians mislead and manipulate the general public.
"I decided to put together this show, as a way of letting loose on some of my opinions about war, peace and corruption and get it out without just talking to everyone about it and sending emails," said Descant. Previous to this show, Descant worked on Deluxe Rocket-ship sculptures -- rocket-ships made out of reclaimed or recycled material. Descant borrowed the concept for his new show.
"Normally, when I went scrounging around for materials and I came across crutches, or wheelchairs, or any type of equipment like that, I would avoid it," he explained. "Just too much feeling and emotion wrapped up in those types of objects."
Descant changed his mind however, when he spotted a pair of crutches taped together with green military tape at a local Arc. "They just spoke to me," he said. "Then they started to come to me from all over the place."
Descant reassembles the crutches he finds into sculptures; the shapes he makes with the crutches, the accessories he includes and the titles all contain meaning. "Even the spelling of the title of the piece is important," explained Descant.
The showing that opens tomorrow at Leon Gallery, a two-month-old gallery in Uptown, is the second showing of the exhibition. Descant showed in late summer in Salida, and ended his show on September 11. "It was crazy. The lights went out and the fire alarm went off during the last night of the show," he explained. "So the police and the fire department ended up coming."
Descant said he realizes his show is making an aggressive statement about war, but he urges that he is not anti-soldier but rather anti-war. "It's as much a show about wounded soldiers as it is about the corruption of the people who sent them there."
So far, Descant says, he hasn't received any negative feedback. "There have been a lot of emotional reactions," he said. "People tearing up and crying. That's the impact of my statement, which is trying not to be anti-soldier or acidic."
Salida's Occupy movement was one of the main inspirations to put together the show, and the whole movement is therefore tied-into the theme of his work. "It's a reality-based movement," he said. "Unlike the Tea Party, which was bought-and-paid-for by the people it was against. In the spring we are going to see a thaw, especially because it's an election year. There will be movements like no one has seen before."
The push toward truth in the Occupy movement is what connects the movement to the soldiers in his work, said Descant. "I'd like to see all these glad-handing politicians, who shake the hands of wounded soldiers and then leave them to fend for themselves, be held accountable," he said. "The troops are coming home, but not with closed-mouths and shut-eyes."
Descant doesn't shy away from the topics he's impassioned about -- in fact, he spoke openly about feeling let-down by President Obama, the corruption of money in politics and the need to bring troops home from the Middle-East. So far, those strong opinions have reached people around him, according to Descant, and even landed him the show at Leon.
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Eric Dallimore and Matthew Buford, co-owners of Leon Gallery, knew Descant before his show and chose Crutches as a Sign of the Times of Occupation as one of their first visual art shows because of his strong opinions and his unwavering ability to express them.
"I don't know anyone else making such a bold statement," said Dallimore. "Jimmy is not afraid to be strong and bold. We're all fairly young, here at the gallery, and we are looking for artwork that makes a bold statement."
"And it's not just that," Buford cut-in. "We're familiar with his sculptures and appreciate the aesthetic and pleasing way he does his work."
The show starts at 7 p.m. at 1112 E. 17th Avenue tomorrow, January 7, and runs through January 31. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/leongallery.