Tom Sewell had something to say. His latest work, entitled “I Can No Longer Remain Silent,” displays an American flag in which the stripes hold the faces of 3,200 American soldiers killed in the Iraq war, while a video scrolls close-ups where the flag’s stars would be, and Gorecki’s “Symphony of Sorrowful Songs” plays along.
But Art Maui didn’t want to hear it. They rejected the piece by Sewell—a prominent artist they’ve repeatedly featured—in this year’s prestigious annual exhibit.
“That’s what started this whole thing,” said Tim Garcia, another artist who, along with Sewell’s wife Michelle, began looking for a space in which they could show similar works of war and peace by other local artists. “That [piece] brings me to tears everyday, especially if I’ve read the paper that morning.”
Garcia’s own installation is in another room of the expansive labyrinth that makes up the Elan Vital Gallery in Makawao. “Peace Poles” consists of two eight-foot stands of black Japanese pine, on which the word “peace” is printed in 200 different languages. He laughingly points out a recent discovery that a single crack—the only one—has developed through the English spelling.
“Mother Nature is telling us to get our act together,” he said. “Peace is not American. It’s not Judeo-Christian. It’s like the air we breathe—free, and we should have it.”
In “100 Years, 100,000,000 Lives,” a striking scratchboard triptych by Ed Lane, warlords, tyrants and leaders throughout history from Kaiser Wilhelm to Adolf Hitler and Tojo are depicted side by side.
“It examines the minds of some of the world leaders who have caused over a hundred million deaths in the last 100 years, and some of the stupidities,” Lane said in the video, The Artists’ Voices. “And there are historic quotes from these people that make you realize how sick their minds really are. And I just would like people to pause and consider that for awhile.”
Bob Getzen’s lithograph, titled “Fuck Those Who Scream For War in the Name of Peace,” was actually done in 1965. At the time, Getzen was an art major at San Diego State. The head of the art department told him he loved the piece and sent a copy to the president, which, Getzen joked, may have helped him get drafted.
“The piece represents the concept that the government wants us to believe that war is for peace,” Getzen said in the same video, “and that never seems to happen.”
The War and Peace exhibit is large and growing, much to the delight of Garcia and Michelle Sewell. But not all pieces are heavy or depressing. Many employ pithy titles, like the “Not So Smart Bomb” oil painting by Javier Martinez, or Nancy Skrimstad’s mixed media “This War is as Ridiculous as a Nude Ballerina Wearing a Viking Helmet for Protection.”
Garcia said when he needs a little lightness, he heads to the “Kids’ Room,” which is a display of the project spearheaded by Haleakala Waldorf School to commemorate the Dalai Lama’s recent visit to Maui. Independent schools throughout Hawai‘i participated, offering prayer flags, linoleum prints and books of poetry. Garcia said it’s many people’s favorite exhibit.
And then of course there’s Lish and Levi Pepperjack’s anti-war installation, “Baghdad Dad Bag,” a sardonic take on the iconic souvenir T-shirt.
“It’s a comment on tourist soldiers, it’s a comment on tourist economy,” Lish said. “It’s an attempt to put in a little humor to something that’s totally not funny.”
“Most people who join the army are not professional soldiers nowadays,” Levi said. “They go in so they can get an education; they go in so they can get some benefits, see the world. So they’re not really professional soldiers, they’re really more like tourists. They think they’re gonna spend a little time in Korea, a little time in Germany—they never really thought about spending a little time in Iraq.”
The War & Peace exhibition will be showing through June 29, noon to 6 p.m. (later for special events) daily at the Elan Vital Gallery, 1134 Makawao Ave., Makawao. For a complete schedule of events visit online at www.mauistopthewar.com. To see the video The Artists’ Voices, visit www.mauiartscene.com. For general info call 572-1269. MTW