Rockland stealth art exhibit underscores rise in American incivility

Wed, 09/30/2020 - 12:30pm

    ROCKLAND—The day after the first presidential debate is the perfect time to talk about Chris Gamage’s latest art piece.

    Gamage, a Rockland sculptor, got the idea to make a giant aluminum coin with the pun “Common Cents” as his theme. One side depicts the United States with the other phrases “Common Courtesy” and “Common Decency.” A flip of the coin reveals the unmistakable caricature of Donald Trump next to a partial Thomas Paine quote: “O ye that love mankind! Ye that dare oppose, not only the tyranny, but the tyrant, stand forth!”

    “Five or so years ago I had the idea for this art piece given how this world was lacking common sense, but after Trump got elected, and everything started going haywire, the piece changed and started focusing more on him,” said Gamage.

    Gamage said he thinks Trump’s decisive and belittling conversational style has had a negative impact on the way most Americans discuss issues. After watching the Sept. 29 presidential debate he said: “Focusing on this piece right now couldn’t be better timing. It was obvious from last night’s debate he doesn’t have any decency or courtesy—even for his own peers.”

    The 300-pound welded aluminum art piece was fashioned in his studio and encased with concrete. It was given a greenish patina to resemble an oxidized coin. Each letter was hand carved.

    Gamage decided to unveil his message with his art piece in a very stealthy way: he and some friends loaded it up to a truck and took it down to the Rockland Ferry Terminal and rolled it into place.

    “The Ferry Terminal has three sculpture pads already there; there hasn’t really been much on them, so, people don’t even know the sculpture pads are there,” he said. “But, that’s what they are made for, so this piece was a perfect place for it. Plus, it was prime location for traffic.”

    The only caveat? The Ferry Terminal had no idea that the sculpture would be there. It’s sort of a guerrilla installation, one might say.

    However, it has not been removed, so it might be worth looking at in person before anything changes.

    Chatter about town has gotten back to Gamage. Some knew exactly who the piece belonged to given his signature “G” mark on the rim of the coin.

    “Some have been confused about what it means; some have thought it was great,” he said. “And it’s been re-posted on friends’ Facebook pages, so it’s getting all kinds of back and forth comments.”

    It’s not ironic that the art piece itself would generate discussion—the only question being, would people be civil about their opinions?

    Whether people agree with the content of his art piece or not, Gamage thinks last night’s debate gave the American people nothing of substance.

    “Everything’s become a lack of reason, logic, and common sense,” he said. You can’t argue with emotion.”

    See his past artwork from our story Sculptor casts his fondest memories in bronze and aluminum.

    Kay Stephens can be reached at