Artist Domenic Esposito is using his symbolic sculpture to confront the opioid crisis head-on.
Since last summer, a giant 800-pound spoon—burnt and bent at the handle—has been drawing attention to the opioid crisis. The massive sculpture is a symbol recognized by people who have been affected by a loved one’s opioid and heroin use. Its sheer size and weight of its meaning make it hard to look away.
“There’s a negative memory attached in many people’s heads because you think your loved one is doing better, you find a burned spoon and you realize they’ve relapsed,” said artist Domenic Esposito. “It’s the reality of the situation and resonates with a lot of families.”
Now Esposito has created a brand new spoon that will tour New England—with stops in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island and New Hampshire. Esposito has invited people who have lost a loved one to the opioid crisis to come and sign the sculpture.
“It’s a blank canvas,” said Esposito. “It becomes very therapeutic for people to be there and sign because they know someone is listening—someone is acknowledging that they’ve had to go through all this horror. It’s just like this disease that basically takes entire families with it.”
The 10.5-foot-long guerrilla art exhibit has confronted drug companies about their role in exacerbating the epidemic of opioid abuse in the United States. Last June, the original spoon sculpture appeared outside of Purdue Pharma headquarters in Stamford, Connecticut.
And in February, it was placed outside Rhodes Pharmaceuticals in Coventry, Rhode Island. Last fall, the Financial Times reported that Rhodes was founded in 2007 by members of the Sackler family, who also own Purdue Pharma, just “four months after Purdue pleaded guilty to federal criminal charges that it had mis-marketed OxyContin over the previous decade.” Rhodes is “among the largest producers of off-patent generic opioids” in the U.S.
“It was really about pointing fingers to, in my mind, the architects of the opioid epidemic,” Esposito told the Concord Monitor.
More spoons were placed in front of the Massachusetts State House in Boston as a gift to state attorney general Maura Healey for her efforts in holding Big Pharma accountable, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Esposito drew from his own experience watching his brother Danny struggle with heroin addiction to create his sculptures. “The spoon has always been an albatross for my family,” Esposito said last year. “It’s kind of an emotional symbol, a dark symbol for me.”
Through his installations, Esposito is hoping to “protest and hold accountable the people who in our minds have created this epidemic that has killed close to 300,000 people.”