And it’s there in Cozzens’s writings, like his 2006 zine “Drawing In the Shadow City” (accessible at secretdoorprojects.org/about/writing.html), which like his prints, is as complex and captivating a love letter to this city as you’ll encounter.
“The city that I love — my Providence, Rhode Island of the summer of 2001,” Cozzens wrote, “was the shadow of the living, inhabited, renaissance, trumpeted city. Nobody knew about it. It was the abandoned areas behind houses and next to overpasses, what was left after the curve of the highway went through, the marginal zone between train tracks and river. The buildings had long ago been discarded by the industries that shaped them, written off by the capitalists and big investors, and re-inhabited by a multitude of second-stage tenants: small electronics and jewelry concerns, flea markets, fabric stores, stained glass workshops, bookbinders and box-makers, storage and warehouses for other businesses, silkscreeners and printers, T-shirt embroiders, bike mechanic shops, metal platers, candle and novelty makers, loud musicians and bands, picture-frame artisans, photographers, woodworkers, a remote-control car club, a collection of archaic mainframe computers. . . .
“Becoming aware of all the life in these old buildings was like noticing a dead tree still standing in the woods: at first it seems empty, an eyesore, a fire hazard. Then, you realize that there are birds flying to and from it industriously — there must be at least a couple of nests up there, in the holes they have made. If you stick around till after nightfall, you might catch a glimpse of the raccoons that live in the hollow trunk, hear the owl hoot from the top branches, see the mice sneak out from the burrows around the roots. Closer up, harder to see, there are insects, centipedes, and spiders, inhabiting different parts of the tree and its dead limbs. A troop of ants climbs up under the bark and out of sight, and when you look close enough to notice the thousands of tiny mites, almost invisible, that crawl in the cracks of the tree’s wood, you understand finally that you are not looking at a dead tree, you are not even looking at individual living things, as much as a single, unified existence.”
Go see this show.
“Material Resistance” runs November 4-26 at the University of Rhode Island Fine Arts Center, 105 Upper College Rd, Kingston. There will be an opening reception Thursday, November 7 from 4:30-7:30 pm.