Local students add the latest touches to an entirely "human" peace banner.
Thursday, January 20, 2000
From the Paleolithic walls of darkened caves, to embossed cement segments along Hollywood''s Walk of Fame, the handprint is a universal human symbol. It is a distinctive feature of who we are and a tracking of where we have been. Now Santa Catalina School students are making their own marks on a huge visual petition for peace at Sowing Peace: Cultivating Change Through Creativity, an exhibit opening this weekend in the school''s gallery.
The Sowing Peace Project began five years ago on New Year''s Eve, when Carmel artist Paola Berthoin debuted "Hands for Peace" at First Night Monterey. Visitors dipped their hands in colored acrylic paint and pressed down on squares of fabric, cut from bedsheets donated by the Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital. The hand-printed segments were later sewn together into 21 banners, with peace as the unifying theme.
"Simple as it is, people really got into it," says Berthoin, "It is our choice what we use our hands for and we can use them to work for peace if we want to."
As the project grew into an annual feature at First Night, people wanted to add icons and messages for amity. Sometimes, people have stayed at the exhibit for over an hour working on their segment.
"I''ve seen war and I''ve seen love--I like love the best," wrote Alberto, identifying himself as "vet ''68-''69."
"An open hand, a smile today, each one adds to another''s joy and grows peace," wrote Nannan O''Neill. At the bottom of a 3-foot-long banner appears the simple statement: "Stop the violence."
From Monterey, Berthoin branched out, taking her project all over the country, and eventually, the world. She collected over 500 pieces at Hands on the Arts in Santa Clara. She received contributions from the Peace Camp in Fullerton and the International Youth Conference in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Panels have also been sent in from Kenyan children in East Africa which were stitched into several banners by local Judy Bryant. Later this year, Berthoin hopes to take the project to the University of Peace in Costa Rica.
Last week, Santa Catalina students created 90 panels of their own to add to the ongoing project. Their panels have been sewn into banners that hang side-by-side with Berthoin''s earlier contributions.
While finishing a delicate applique last week at Santa Catalina, one student commented that she works to get her feelings out and "wasn''t aware of composition or trying to convey particular meaning." She said she was "freeing what was within."
The tactile nature of Sowing Peace provides intimacy with each message. It allows the viewer to absorb the piece''s powerful intention from a few steps back, by viewing the banners as one entity.
It is compelling to gaze at each piece, noting the names, ages, messages and the tiny, bleached threads that bind it all together. If these segments represent the fabric of our society, perhaps it can be seen as vivid visual representation of the phrase "life is a rich tapestry."
Berthoin''s goal is to create a feeling of community, engaging people in the arts while tapping into their awareness of the natural world. "You can attain peace in the act of being creative," she says. "Taking time to do just one thing and taking pride in it.
"It''s amazing the effect a few handprints can have," she says. "Imagine if there were a million--what a statement that would make!"
Sowing Peace: Cultivating Change Through Creativity opens Friday with a reception at the Santa Catalina School Gallery.