January 21, 2014
THE WAR AND PEACE PROJECT
The War and Peace Project, a collaborative fusion of literature and art, will exhibit at Hampden Gallery Fine Arts Center at the University of Massachusetts Amherst from February 23–March 13, 2014. Opening reception on February 23, 2–4:00 PM includes a gallery talk by project founder and lead artist, Lola Baltzell, at 3 PM. The project consists of 747 individual collages that combine to form a unique work based on Leo Tolstoy’s classic novel, War and Peace, The show will be co-curated by Lola Baltzell and Trish Crapo.
Baltzell came up with the idea of making a collage out of each page of a 1970's Soviet edition of Leo Tolstoy’s classic “War and Peace”. She was a Russian major in college, and also has Russian heritage. Along with the source material, other media was culled from hand-me-down books, maps, pamphlets and letters. The collages are a mash-up of personal fragments and random bits of printed detritus. Each day she posted a collage on their blog which included the artists’ reflections on their collage, their process, and the book itself.
Over time, Baltzell pulled together a team of artists, who dubbed themselves Team Tolstoy. Five of the core worked together every Friday in their East Boston studio and she mailed pages back and forth to other team members who lived in Atlanta, western Massachusetts and Berlin. In addition, there were numerous guest artists who were friends of the group, or who asked to be included. Collectively they worked together for over 2 years to complete the project.
The project has been shown in Boston, New York and Russia, but this will be the first time the project will be shown in its entirety in the United States.
A selection of the collages was shown at the Moscow International Book Fair in June 2012, after which the entire project was exhibited at Yasnaya Polyana, the Leo Tolstoy Estate and Museum in Tula, Russia.
Baltzell and Crapo traveled together twice to Russia, first in 2011 at the invitation of Yasnaya Polyana to plan for the show, and then in 2012 with 6 other artists to attend the opening reception. They also offered several days of workshops in collaborative collage-making to a very enthusiastic Russian audience. The project got a lot of attention on Russian social media and was well covered by local and regional television and newspaper crews.
The War and Peace Project took over two years to complete. Each 5x7 inch collage incorporates one page from the Russian text, and reflects some aspect of Tolstoy's novel. Team Tolstoy aptly fits Henry James' description of what a novel is: "a loose and baggy monster"
Along with the Russian text, other media was culled from hand-me-down books, maps, pamphlets and letters. The collages are a mash-up of personal fragments and random bits of printed detritus. Artists have added thread, dried flowers, wax, inks and graphite. The project was documented each day on the War and Peace Project blog, along with artists’ reflections on their collages, their process, and the book.