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Images of War and Peace
Timely Exhibit Explores Artists' Reaction to Horrors of Battle

hear the story Listen to Elizabeth Blair's report on the latest exhibit at the American Visionary Art Museum, “The Art of War & Peace.”

Frank Bruno, Day of the Trumpets

Frank Bruno, Day of the Trumpets, 1997
Photo: American Visionary Art Museum

View a photo gallery with examples of art in “The Art of War & Peace” exhibit.



Oct. 9, 2001 -- Holy wars, civil wars, world wars and race wars: the artists featured in a new exhibit entitled “The Art of War & Peace” span continents, time and types of conflict.

“The Art of War & Peace” highlights the work of 65 self-taught artists, most of whom have experienced war firsthand. The show at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Md. was planned long before Sept. 11, but last month’s terrorist attacks have added new meaning to the show.

“War, like peace, is always experienced one irreplaceable universe at a time,” Rebecca Hoffberger, the museum’s director and founder, told NPR’s Elizabeth Blair.

The experience of war is so huge, it is often difficult to comprehend, Hoffberger said. This exhibit is dedicated to individual artistic responses to terrible events and is broken down into two sections: the art of war, and the art of peace. Some of the artists express pain, while other artists draw from their pain to evoke peace.

“I really feel that people coming here will be able to put war into a perspective that they may not have had a chance to do before.”

Michael Bonesteel, exhibit curator

Michael Bonesteel, curator of exhibit, points to a sculpture by Antonio Alberti, an Italian bricklayer who fought in World War I. Alberti was so moved by the experience of having a close friend die in his arms during a battle, that he devoted thousands of hours over the next 20 years carving an evocative statue called “The Light of Life.” The work, Bonesteel said, is an example of how an individual artist’s desire to express the spiritual horrors of battle can lead to an enduring anti-war memorial.

It's one thing for an artist to articulate pain; it’s quite another to ask people to look at it. Bonesteel had to ask himself if now was the best time to be presenting disturbing images in an art exhibit.

“But in another way, it's very timely,” he told Blair. “I really feel that people coming here will be able to put war into a perspective that they may not have had a chance to do before.”

"The Art of War & Peace" at American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore is on display through Sept. 1, 2002.

Other Resources

American Visionary Art Museum Web site.