Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Ron English at RiverKeeper Alliance picnic in 2000. Both had images on view along with other works from the Artists For Peace and the Environment Woodstock ’99 collection.
By JAMIE ELLIN FORBES, Publisher Fine Art Magazine
“Artists for Peace and the Environment” was originally exhibited in the summer of ’99 in Rome, NY at the 30th anniversary of the Woodstock Music and Art Festival, “An Aquarian Exposition.” Artists were invited to participate and with the support and agreement of Michael Lang (Woodstock Ventures) and Robert Kennedy Jr., (Riverkeeper Alliance). While curating the collection, I entitled the exhibit “Artists for Peace and the Environment.” Calls for peace were not significant that year, peace accords had been signed for Bosnia. The luster of environmental causes was waning somewhat as the glamor of the rally to save the Amazon rain forest had died out. The Columbine High School massacre lent a picture of an emerging profile of youth in America. Youth and violence. Artists for Peace and the Environment got lost in the shuffle of the disorder that surrounded this, third Woodstock event.
Still, with the help and support of many, this collection of nearly 100 large paintings on 4’ x 8’ canvases caught the rising tide of warmth, peace, love and rock and roll of the original Woodstock Nation and all of the hallmark signature athems that were never associated with the ’99 theme — “Not Your Parents Woodstock.”
Most folks having anything to do with that event distanced themselves right away from the festivals’ violence. Some people—like me—hung on to the concept of Love, Peace and Rock and Roll. Peace and the Environment never seemed like a bad idea which can go out of style. It was timeless.
Having committed myself to these works, I was able to show the images in several national and international events from ’99 -2005. Dieter Schneider of Nuremberg, Germany was a staunch supporter of the Woodstock Nation and hosted the canvases into Berlin, Nuremberg and Munich through 2006. In NY, we held a big party on the Intrepid Museum with the aid of Mary Asta. The canvases were exhibited at the Nassau Museum in Roslyn Harbor with Graham Nash flying in to sing a few tunes. Bobby Kennedy Jr. as a supporter and participating artist displayed selected works at River Keeper events. Harry Wahab of the Stendhal Gallery was kind enough to host an event in 2,000 and Victor Forbes and myself exhibited these works at the Blue Poodle Gallery in 2004. I built a small website and the collection can be seen in it’s entirety at www.fineart magazine.com.
So why take a look now at this collection now? Because the theme is more relevant than ever. Michelle Estrick has become an acclaimed film producer, Ron English, now a well noted politically active and collectable painter; Wavy Gravy, a cultural icon; Tico Torres, drummer of Bon Jovi and serious painter contributed a work, as did Lorraine Bracco of the Sopranos. These are just a fraction of the artists involved. Peace and the environment are more important than ever and the time has come for these works to stand alone as a viable and important artistic statement related to today’s urgent cries for social change. There are no more pressing issues than peace and the environment. The war we wage as the US since 2001 has bankrupted our system. The environmental changes we see are real and we are on the precipice of not being able to stop a climatic shift which will make war seem remote as a problem.
Why is peace important as a principle? It matters little if there is a war taking place in Vietnam, Bosnia, or Iraq. People are slaughtered every day in fighting. Children, civilians, soldiers. Our loved ones and theirs senselessly die every day. So peace is a good idea, yes?
The Sudan had the largest migration due to drought and war of any refugee nation until it was replaced by the Afghan refugee migration into Pakistan this last year. War and drought still plague the planet.
Why the environment? It is because fires burn in the western part of the United States, no longer as a phenomena of the Santa Ana Winds, known within the region as seasonally due in November. Brush fires occur for more than half the year now. The devastation has affected the resilience of the economy of California, which until the recent fiscal debacle was the fifth largest in the world. California’s main source of irrigation water is expected to go dry this year for most of its growers due to drought, idling at least 60,000 workers and up to 1 million acres of farmland, federal officials and experts said.
Dust turns the sky of Sydney, Australia red, due to the largest dust bowl recorded on our planet. The cause? Prolonged regional drought. The Zoological Society of London and the Global Footprint Network also gave the following statistics: land species have declined by 25%, marine life by 28% and freshwater species by 29%. The rhythm of our inter-relatedness as a species is the music we follow when we are not hearing sound. Every time one species is eliminated from the tree of life our internal sound diminishes. The musical chord is changed forever. Like a guitar string snapping, a richness is lost. Artists For Peace and the Environment uses necessary to be communicated as image, borrowing from and played out, in the background of the memory Woodstock Nation in the summer of ’99. The ideas are now in the foreground. The art works called then and now to an end to war and assault on the environment.
Lack of conservation and pollution of our natural resources, land and water are now major general health and population concerns for all communities in all cultures. People go to war for lack of land, water, food and natural resources which sustain life and cultures. Between multiple wars and a continued lack of environmental concern, we are now forever propitiating the cycles of lack.
The possibility that ideas as images may universally be understood in this collection of art using iconic message, which travel fasted than the speed of light to make change happen was instituted in ’99. Graffiti artist Anthony Asutang, sculptors Steve Zaluski, and Bob Wade, painter/musicians known and unknown contributed to Artists for Peace and the Environment. All used image to dialogue the importance of the peace, love, rock and roll and Mother Earth. Through these images, they bridge and forge new forms of descriptive metaphor. The artists tackled and addressed the immense magnitude of the issues facing each person today. Peace and the Environment are timesless canvases, messages form a simple fundamental universal language, as a collection, for the now famous peace sign, the slogans of the “Woodstock Nation” used art for 40 years carry over the message that “Now—more than ever—Peace and the Environment go hand in hand."