April 8 -2013
MAKE PEACE PROJECT: A 21ST CENTURY ICON SYMBOL CHALLENGES THE WORLD
Written by Caryl Watson
There are firsts in life: the first time I interviewed someone who was knighted by the Queen of England, the first time I interviewed a television reporter, and the first time I interviewed a teenage piano virtuoso. Although the reason for these interviews ranged from academic and research purposes, it was a pleasure to interview an artist and sculptor, Paul Montez. Sculptor Paul Montez has been featured in Art Threat, DNA, NearSay Magazines and around the world, undoubtedly as a mover and a shaker in the art world as his Make Peace projects such as “The Prayer Room” capture a lot of attention, conversation, and spurs debate. With his projects he advocates, among other things, literacy for young girls and women as an integral part of building community, while attempting to “…opening the door of a powerful dialogue of humans…”
JACAMO MAGAZINE: What inspired you to begin Make Peace Art? Paul Montez: Art represents an opportunity to create a point of view through visual arts. The visceral lends a tangible memory of the 911 events. My sculpture called The Prayer Room was created to restore a sense of balance and humanity as a culture and as a country. It reflects one’s struggle to show one’s place in society.
JACAMO MAGAZINE: Do you create art to make a political statement or is it meant to inspire grass roots, social action? Paul Montez: Modern art takes on the ability to take on larger social dimensions, challenge community beliefs and “crowd source” ideas. The individual psychology of art places social pressures on issues as it deals with one’s own perception while simultaneously embracing larger social perceptions. Consequently, my work becomes accessible on an emotional and psychological level.
JACAMO MAGAZINE: Your work has been seen nationally as well as internationally. It is a given that Western Europe and the Americas view the “Peace” symbol as a positive nomenclature, but for other cultures it may hold a negative value. How does one reconcile the different interpretations of the peace symbol and has any country responded negatively to the “Peace” symbol that is present in your work? Paul Montez: The peace symbol has a covert ability to address the same desire for peace within slightly different dynamics. Peace requires proactive action to address universal and psychological needs for democracy, participation, and freedom of speech. For Arab governments and the Arab Spring, it means overcoming dictatorships through immediate social change to meet immediate social needs. Theirs was a challenge of an underrepresented population in government. In some African countries others seek to promote women’s rights, while in China, peace is a matter of free speech and overcoming widespread corruption. When my work has been seen in other countries, the Peace symbol is viewed as antithetical to American culture. The Peace symbol is adaptable to many cultures.
JACAMO MAGAZINE: Would you compare yourself to Mapplethorpe or Salvatore Dali with regard to your social commentary through symbolism? Paul Montez: Mapplethorpe expresses the subculture of the gay male community. Make Peace Art is not created for shock value, rather, it expresses already held beliefs in our multi-tasking, pro-active, interconnected world. The bigger question is: “Can artists create symbols that reflect the world?” Make Peace is a symbol, not an entity. One may ask “What part does it play in iconography and symbolism?”
JACAMO MAGAZINE: How do you find the motivation to continue making Peace art? Paul Montez: Make Peace is an idea whose time has come. I hope I am seeing a new generation of let’s build a social bridge which leads to interconnectivity such as the “Occupy Wall Street” movement.
JACAMO MAGAZINE: Which (international) humanitarian program do you support? In your opinion how effective are these programs? Paul Montez: Peace takes many different forms. In many countries, social repression is used to maintain wealth and wealth is often created from slavery. Human slavery builds what the privilege enjoy as benefits. Gandhi said, “There is no greater violence than poverty.” We must make peace tangible…, break it into chunks with issues such as slavery. We must use our soft power to influence governments and do more to understand the process of democracy.
JACAMO MAGAZINE: Whom do you see as your mentor(s)? Are there any sculptors past of present whom you resemble in your work? Paul Montez: Hans Haacke, a conceptual artist from the 1980s and 1990s, is a social artist who influenced me by his ability to tie direct relationships to events, Carl Andre for his intellectual and artistic discipline, Joseph Kossuth and Barbara Kruger for their ability to see the language in propaganda and what is behind the message, Lawrence Weiner as well. Peace is expressed differently in terms of free speech, education, economic development, and gender equality. The symbol of peace can be used as a message to each other in the cloud of social evolution and change. There are 385,000 war monuments in the United States, in comparison to under 200 monuments to peace. Peace is not an option. It is a necessity for human survival.
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Art Crasher Magazine
San Francisco, California
PAINTING PEACE: ACROSS A GLOBAL LANDSCAPE
By Hollie Banson
April 13, 2013
Riots started in Syria in 2011 after 15 children were arrested in the city of Daraa for painting anti-government graffiti on the walls of a school. In that same year, the revolution in Egypt produced a spike in revolutionary graffiti. As their government tried to silence citizens, street art became a universal form of communication that reached people around the world.
These are some of the examples artist Paul-Felix Montez references when he talks about the power of street art and symbols. Symbolism is an art form that can be traced back to the first cave paintings. The power of symbolism lies in its ability to tell stories and capture or deepest desires and human needs. Symbols create a universal language, transcending international and cultural borders, thus uplifting us from all the regional constraints.
Paul-Felix has been fascinated by symbols throughout his career. He recognizes the peace symbol as an authentic symbol that represents our needs. “Peace is the highest ideal. It enables us to love, have families, fix differences..” Montez set out to reinvent the peace symbol and start a global movement. After contacting artists like George Colon, the Make Peace Project was born. The Make Peace Project encourages global street artists to use the new proactive peace symbol, engage in grassroots activism and change their world and communities.
The project has become an umbrella for “Make Peace Day” and other grassroot movements. “Make Peace Day” takes place “as it falls on the Saturday after or on Spring Equinox every year”. It promotes and celebrates every individual’s ability to do something peaceful through action. 25,000 people participated online in March 2013. The “Make Peace Park” grass movement aims to make peaceful parks by taking back abandoned or high crimes areas. The idea is not to push out middle or lower classes, but to rebuild and create a shared area of support for all citizens.
On September 14, 2013, thousands of artists will gather in Brooklyn, New York to join the world’s largest single collaborative artwork movement of the 21st century. NYC will be the project’s launchpad and result in a major gallery exhibition. All works of art will incorporate the reinvented peace symbol.The Project will continue in other international cities like San Francisco, Paris and Berlin. “It will not stop” Montez says. “Museums make us spectators, but this event makes us participants. It will not stop because Peace is not an option. It is a necessity for human survival.”
Additional Publications and Online Blogs:
World Occupy News
World Peace News
THE PRAYER ROOM 2010 – 2011 ART INSTALLATION EXHIBITION: