(re)composing landscapes

Today, as part of International Day of Peace activities, Rowan University’s College of Fine Arts hosted an exhibition of Pinwheels for Peace (1 of 4 such exhibitions in Glassboro, NJ) on the lawn between Science and Westby Halls.

Pinwheels for Peace

This non-political organization aims to provide an alternative to the violent images that bombard children via TV, video games, and the movies. The organization web site says that it is their “hope that through the Pinwheels for Peace project, we can help the students make a public visual statement about their feelings about war/ peace/ tolerance/ cooperation/ harmony/ unity and, in some way, maybe, awaken the public and let them know what the next generation is thinking.”

I walked over to the exhibition with Sandy Tweedie, expecting to take a few pictures of it for an old friend who is an elementary school art teacher, and then be on my way to the Amish market in Mullica Hill. I didn’t expect there to be a table outfitted with markers and pastels so that passers-by could make their own. Some of the pinwheels were exceptional–amazing colors, wonderful patterns–and clearly took a lot of time and thought. On the other hand, my pinwheel (front and back):


Though I certainly support the goals of the organization, what interests me most about the project is how the exhibit, like many traveling outdoor exhibits, transforms landscapes:

[picture of empty lawn coming soon]

Pinwheel Landscape

The normally blank lawn on the side of Science Hall now becomes something entirely different. I saw the same thing happen in Austin, TX, when the Eyes Wide Open exhibit came to Zilker Park:

Eyes Wide Open, Zilker Park

There are, however, significant difference between the two spaces: one framed by buildings, the other vast and littered with soccer goals. In one the pieces are planted by the person who made them; in the other the pieces are laid on the grass by exhibit organizers. In one the pieces are whimsically scattered throughout the landscape; in the other, the pieces are laid in rows. In one the pieces are created by individuals who, for one reason or another, thought it was something they wanted to do; the other is meant to remediate a life and a death. One is non-political, the other is rife with politics.

And one has a much different emotional reaction to the two exhibits, especially when pieces are seen individually:

Pinwheel and Eyes Wife Open Boot

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