Saturday, November 6, 2010

Artscope Magazine

Well, I will switch it up a little today and not post an image, but the article written about us in Artscope Magazine! Not bad, right under an article about Christo!

Here is the review in the November/December issue, written by our friend Pam Mandell. We are so psyched!

Every Friday, in an East Boston studio, two to four artists gather around a table, elbow-to-elbow, each creating a collage made from a page of Tolstoy's "War and Peace". They select materials from a central scrap box and share one palette of acrylic paint, which has been mixed for the day, at the table's center. The artists add other media such as graphite, walnut ink, wax, thread and dried flowers.

Laura "Lola" Baltzell, the initiator of and main contributor to "The War and Peace Project," was its "Tom Sawyer" as Lynn Waskelis, her other primary contributor, describes it. With infectious enthusiasm, Baltzell drew together a core group of seven artists and nearly a dozen other guest contributors.

Two hundred and fifty collages, of a planned 750, are being made from each page of a Russian edition of Tolstoy's epic novel (which Baltzell brought back from Moscow 3O years ago) and will be exhibited at Atlantic Works Gallery in December.

Currently in fine health, Baltzell received treatment for metastatic breast cancer in 2008. Having read the "average" life span of those living with her diagnosis is 30 months, Baltzell was inspired to "fly in the face" of this statistic and create something expansive, which would involve "dear friends" and might take a very long time to finish. Years even. This spring, when the project began, Waskelis, a two-time breast-cancer survivor, often found herself lying on the floor of her studio after chemo treatments. The mother of two got up to work because she perhaps felt very much like Prince Andrei in "War and Peace" when he senses "the whole of life, with all its joy, is open to me."

So much, indeed, is collected and celebrated in these alternately elegant, strange, funny and poignant pieces. Each seven-by-five-inch page of the book is mounted on Bristol paper and transformed by the addition of a rich assortment of text and images culled from old letters stamps, sheet music, guidebooks, sewing patterns, newspapers, maps and things gleaned from closets, junk shops, and yard and book sales. "War and Peace," which takes place before and during the Napoleonic Wars, is known certainly for its length (about 1500 pages) but remains resonant today for Tolstoy's depiction of humanity in all it’s complexity and breadth - from princes to soldiers, from the ballroom to the battlefield. Similarly, so much of life and at its human interactions, from the mundane to the nostalgic, the playful to the spiritual, is glimpsed in these small collages which literally hold pieces spanning continents and time: embossed hotel stationery postmarked "Times Square 1912"; a yellow and brown Japanese origami flower; a Moroccan map; an image of a Hindu goddess (brought back from India); text from a 19th century German manuscript; French, Latin and Portuguese phrases; lyrics from faded hymnals; bright green diamonds cut from 1960s-era playing cards; and silhouettes of Dutch children.

Several pages from the 1971 Russian text have been sent to artists on Cape Cod and in Berlin. 0tto Mayr, the Berliner, is one of the seven main project artists, along with Lucy Arrington, Emma Rhodes, Lucy Zahner Montgomery and Adrienne Wetmore. There are rules, Baltzell explained, that allow for "individual voices with some unity." One rule is that virtually no money can be spent on materials. Another rule is that each collage must use, or reveal, one word of the original Russian text. Also, the artists may not go back to touch up their individual pages. Finally, the work is not for sale, nor does it belong to the artists - a truly communal effort of which even Tolstoy might approve. -- Pamela Mandell

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