Thar Be Dragons

The Providence pop-up scene can be hard to track down – the very nature of a pop-up is that is temporary, almost ephemeral. Pop-up galleries in Providence can be like unexpected springs discovered on a backwoods hike – something you come across when you part some foliage, without realizing what you’ll be stumbling upon.

One such recent pop-up is the exhibition by local artist, Steel Yard patron and co-founder Nick Bauta. The show, occupying otherwise vacant space on Westminster St. in downtown Providence, includes some beautifully crafted furniture and an action-packed tapestry diorama that might have belonged in Joss Whedon’s version of Game of Thrones (if such a thing existed). But the focus of the show is Dragons.

Particularly, a set of interactive dragons of various sizes that are constructed from an interesting combination of materials, including metal, plastic, rubber, feathers and bone.dragons

The creatures are meant to be played with – larger ones, almost person-sized, greet visitors at the door and respond to people stepping on foot pedals by rising to full height, feinting an attack or opening their mouths. Further into the exhibit, poseable dragons around two feet in length remind the visitor of really cool action figures that didn’t (and still don’t ) quite exist in the toy store. But maybe could, in an alternate reality.

“You can’t make art that’s about rejuvenation – about taking action to overcome the destruction of our eco system, and not expect people to interact with it. That’s the litmus test – participation,” says Bauta, encouraging visitors to touch and move the dragons.

The skulls used for many of the creatures were obtained by mail-order, while the metal sculpting happened at the Steel Yard.

The creatures are representations from a larger fantasy-adventure fabric, a cautionary tale about taking care of the environment – before extraterrestrial dragons descend to feast on an ecologically damaged Earth. (The dragons, of course, are metaphorical. But they also have names and a conversation with the artist hints at complex, hidden backstories which promise more work to come).

By the time you read this, it’s likely this gallery (called “Beheaded”) will have popped back down – its half-life was limited, and this visitor found it in our downtown jungle too far into its run. But keep an eye out – there were definitely dragons in this heart of the city; and if we’re lucky, perhaps they’ll come back.