Students walking around the quiet corridors of Olive Tjaden Hall last week may have caught a glimpse of colored squares suspended from a metal frame in the art gallery. The exhibit, entitled “Peace by Piece,” is a collection of over 200 panels of artwork created by individuals around the world depicting their ideas of peace. Maureen Bennett O’Connor, the Demarest, N.J. artist who conceived the original idea behind the project, describes it as “not really a postmodernist approach to peace, but rather a way to bring peace an avenue of expression.”
O’Connor began the project in October of 2001 as an attempt to bring herself peace after having been deeply affected by the events of Sept. 11.
The panels vary widely in artistic scope, a result of differences in age, gender, culture and religion among the contributors, but are all united by a theme of peace. Some panels are quietly introspective, with poems or scenes from daily life. Others demand peace in strong colors and patriotic symbolism and sometimes resort to violent imagery.
In a statement accompanying one of her own panels, O’Connor writes, “Though it is always shifting, I am aware of the very moment that I am present to the miracles of creation. Inspiration from the human spirit and the human heart in all creative works
and life itself brings me joy, and at times,
One panel created in dedication to the artist’s late mother, who died of a cerebral hemorrhage in early 2001, depicts a swirl of pastel colors surrounding an infant in formation, a tribute to the styles of Georgia O’Keefe and Leonardo da Vinci. O’Connor’s niece, Sheerin Florio ’03, acted as curator for the exhibit, which ran from March 29 to April 4 at Cornell. The exhibit is now on display at a high school in the Bronx.
When asked why she wanted to bring the exhibit to Cornell, Florio replied, “I thought it would be an interesting addition to the discourse of peace that already exists on campus. My aunt never previously had access to this age group, to this kind of intellectual setting. Her excitement for the project had an effect on me and made me want to benefit the Cornell community.”
Florio mentioned that several members of the Cornell community have already expressed interest in creating panels of their own, adding to the collection which O’Connor hopes will reach 1000 by the end of this year.
In an e-mail explaining the background of her project, O’Connor encourages people to participate in the project:
“The need for peace cries out all around us … it is a universal longing of the heart. You can call it job security, freedom, good health, serenity, creative expression, wholeness, spirituality, unity, whatever, the yearning exists in us all.”
More information about the exhibit can be found at www.peacebypiece.info.
Archived article by Evelyn Ngeow