In the past year the U.S. was hit with a streak of 372 mass shootings, killing a total of 475 people and wounding another 1,870. The seemingly endless tragedies have instilled a sense of helplessness into those who have failed to see action taken by US delegates.
For Scott McCaw, a graduating senior at Southern Oregon University, gun violence was not an issue that he could ignore. “I left the career of selling firearms to go back to school to become an art teacher and now all of a sudden I’m having to worry about shooting on campuses,” said McCaw who spent the last decade selling firearms at pawn shops and sporting good stores.
Around the same time of the shooting at Umpqua community college, when a gunman opened fire on a classroom of students, Scott was making plans for his senior project. The final product, themed “My Campus is my Home” debuted in the Rezlaff Gallery on Thursday night, and stood as a personal dedication to those affected by gun violence. “When those things happened I was just taken aback for a moment and knew this was what I needed to do a piece on this is what I needed to work on,” he said.
His art piece consisted of 278 photographs, placed in order on the gallery wall, that captured the front of Schneider Art museum every five minutes from 6pm on Nov. 18 to 6pm the next day. The collection of pictures formed a near perfect streak until the hour between 6am and 7am where a single black still of McCaw’s hand covering the lens was hung.
“Following the picture I had this gut wrenching feeling like I couldn’t bring myself to take this photo, I couldn’t take away from this photo. Somewhere in the 6:04 moment I just decided to let my camera stay silent and I remained silent for the hour,” he said pointing out the blank streak of wall. “This photo is dedicated to the survivors and family member of those lost, as a celebration that life goes on.”
McCaw collaborated with fellow students as well as members of the Vision Quilt project that began in Ashland six months ago as a way to speak out against gun violence in America. Dozens of panels hung by the windows in the nearby Thorndike Gallery accompanied by art projects of other students, including a diagram that mapped out the coordinates of major shootings in the US.
“I just have been more and more disturbed about gun violence and feeling like our culture does not have to be this way,” said Cathy DeForest, who drew inspiration from the Aids quilt movement to start the Vision Quilt campaign in Southern Oregon. So far the group has collected over 120 panels from four different states.
“When you see the names on those panels of every person, their age, you can’t forget them,” she said referring to a panel composed of baby blankets in commemoration of the Sandy Hook shooting. The panels serve as a way for those affected by gun violence to have a voice. DeForest hopes to see the movement spread across the country inciting positive social change in our culture and the way we deal with mass shootings.
Scott’s work, the Vision Quilt panels, and the work of the other students will be displayed in the galleries until March 18th.