Art Makes Statement for Priest's Alleged Victims

By Louise Kennedy
Boston Globe
October 16, 2003

When Provincetown artist Mike Ware heard of a proposal to create site-specific art installations in the Meadows Motel, he said yesterday in a phone interview, he decided to furnish a room for "this one person who really affected my life."

So Ware designed his contribution to the exhibit, which opens tomorrow in Provincetown: a jail cell for the Rev. Paul R. Shanley.

Shanley is living in Provincetown while he is out on bail, awaiting trial on 10 counts of child rape and six counts of indecent assault and battery, dating from his assignment as a priest in a Newton parish in the 1980s. "Of all the places in the world, he comes to Provincetown," Ware said. "My thought was, `Is he here? Is he not here? When am I going to run into him? He wants to live here? OK, I'll give him a home.' So I'm transforming a room into a jail cell."

Ware said he was concerned that "Provincetown, because there's a lot of gay people, people will think, `Oh, they'll accept him.' And that's so not the case." But his anger goes deeper than his concern for his adopted home, where he moved from his native Boston in 1999 when he switched careers from advertising to art.

When he was 14, Ware said, "I had an encounter with him. I was luckier than others, and I got out of it."

Ware had run away from home several times, he said, before he went to dinner with Shanley, whom he had met through neighbors in Dorchester. "I went to this house in Braintree," he said. "We went upstairs. I started to listen to what he wanted me to do, but I had just come off the streets, and enough [bad] things had happened to me that I knew this wasn't right."

Because of his "street smarts," Ware said, he escaped. But "it affected me then, it's affected me now, and, yes, he does live in this town."

So Ware has been gathering posters of alleged victims, stuffed animals "representing the innocence of children," and other materials to create an artwork in response to Shanley's presence in town and his own memories.

"Oh, I see, I see, I see, he is another victim," said Shanley's lawyer, Frank Mondano, when asked for comment by phone yesterday. Though he said, "I'm not aware that my client was aware of this exhibit," he did offer his own opinion: "Bizarre. What can I say? I have no response to it."

Mondano added that he might alert Shanley to the existence of the exhibit because "who knows what it might stir up." Noting that "I have a place not far from there," he said, "My wife, she has some aptitude. She's working on her watercolors. Maybe I should send her to make a critique." As for Ware, Mondano said, "I'm in no position to comment on who this fellow is, what he's done . . . He is one of more than we can keep track of."

Ware said he felt particularly moved to create this work after viewing a videotape of posters showing the faces of alleged victims and quotations from them. "It really made me very sad to just see these faces and just what happened to their lives," Ware said. As for his own "encounter," Ware said, "I had kind of buried it until two years ago." He had made another work about Shanley, though, in one of his courses at the Provincetown International Art Institute. "One of my assignments was `create a piece that's someone you hate,' and it was Shanley." That piece was described in a 2002 Vanity Fair article about Shanley as "a searing three-dimensional work," a black box containing a crucifix and a pair of small white briefs, with Ware's First Communion picture on the back.

Ware's work is Room 7 in the "letoM swodaeM" (Meadows Motel spelled backwards) exhibit at the Broad Street Extension motel, which is slated for demolition to make way for affordable housing and artists' studios. Curator Jay Critchley conceived the show as a way of "marking the passing of this property and a lamentation about the changes in town," he said in a phone interview.

Critchley's Provincetown Community Compact opens the exhibit tomorrow from 4 to 7 p.m., and it will be up through Oct. 26 from noon to 4 p.m. Other works include a bathroom installation featuring hand soap and a video, by sculptor Maryalice Johnston and video artist Natalie Ferrier; a room-size pinhole camera by photographer Marian Roth; and a mixed-media installation by painter Willie Baracchi.

Because his parents are religious and because a brother who died last month received great comfort from his faith, Ware said, he feels some conflicts about the work he is creating for the show.

"I've thought, `Why am I doing this? I really don't want to upset anybody, I'm really low-key, I'm a very private person,' " Ware said. "But then I thought, `Wait a second -- I didn't do anything wrong. I just happened to be in the wrong place.'

"I think it's for me," he said of his artwork, "but even more so it's for other people, who have been wronged more than I have."

"letoM swodaeM" runs through Oct. 26 from noon to 4 p.m. For information, call 508-487-3684.

Louise Kennedy can be reached at

This story ran on page D1 of the Boston Globe on 10/16/2003.

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