“Carrying,” an exhibition of signs exploring the diverse laws governing guns on public university campuses throughout the country, is now on display in New Paltz. The Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art, SUNY New Paltz and the village and town of New Paltz are participating in the collaborative display of 50 signs -- each highlighting the gun laws of a different state -- dispersed throughout the community.
A complete set of the signs is on display at the Dorsky Museum as part of “Hudson Valley Artists 2010: Contemporary Art and Praxis,” curated by Thomas Collins, now through Nov. 14.
Artists Curt Belshe and Lise Prown, a husband-and-wife team from Peekskill, created “Carrying” to shed light on college campus gun policies through information graphics accessible to the general public.
“We both work for colleges so it touched a nerve, personally, and our own perceptions of what a college campus is or should be,” said Prown.
There are federal laws prohibiting carrying handguns on elementary and secondary school campuses. However, no federal law currently exists regarding carrying handguns on public university campuses.
The signs include state laws of purchase, transport and use of handguns. The abundance of text on each sign is evidence that the rules and regulations pertaining to concealed weapons are varied and complex.
“New York has very strict gun laws, which is good for people to know. Overall, colleges are extremely safe places. This is not meant to be alarmist; it’s just to notice that there are very big differences from state to state,” said Prown.
Signs can be found throughout the SUNY New Paltz campus, at Town Hall, Village Hall and the New Paltz Regional Chamber of Commerce, and along the New Paltz Rail Trail -- and at a dozen additional locations. (A full map will be available at project website www.belsheprown.com.)
“We had a lot of cooperation from the village and the town, which was great,” said Dorsky Museum Curator Brian Wallace. “It also helped to make the project go on campus. With the cooperation of many different people, we approved 50 spots and with a little crew, all the signs were put up on the campus and out in the community.”
Each sign features a sticker on the back that refers the viewer to the project’s website and to the assembled installation at the Dorsky Museum. Back at the museum, the assembled signs -- in five rows, ten columns -- form a collage including images of a male and female student, backpacks and guns.
“The artists were very clever: when you see one sign out in the community, it arguably doesn’t really carry the image of a gun on it,” said Wallace. “It’s not meant to be a scare piece. Instead, you come across these and are provoked by the sot of strange specificity and almost blandness of the information about a really contentious topic A balance is struck -- is this art? is this a political statement? -- through visual, project execution and presentation skills. That balance among all those different elements made me think it would be a worthwhile, challenging and interesting project. It rewards sustained contemplation and it also invites discussion.”
A formal discussion of “Carrying” is being planned for October at Village Hall, date TBA.
For more information about Hudson Valley Artists 2010: Contemporary Art and Praxis, visit the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art website, http://www.newpaltz.edu/museum/.