I credit Lucy Arrington with giving me the idea to do this. She knew of an artist who was making a drawing on found paper for every page of Moby Dick. She told me about this in late 2009. The idea grew into a curiosity, then a decision to do a big project of my own. Or so I thought. I had been diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer in August 2008, and am living with an extremely poor prognosis, even though I am doing really well with no sign of cancer anywhere. I decided to use my 30-year old version of War and Peace, and to use each physical page. I made the first six on my own. Then I gave up. I wasn't particularly happy with them and had never worked on paper before. Enter Lynn.
I asked her if she would be interested in picking up the project with me. For some reason, she signed on! And we were off and running. We had already been spending Fridays together in our studio in East Boston. We continued to work on our individual projects but over time began to focus on this one. We invited others to join us. And not we are Team Tolstoy.
At the risk of hyperbole, this project is one of the most fulfilling and exciting things I have ever done in my life. And that's saying a lot! We gather every Friday. I bring my puppy Sasha. We have a blast. Thanks for enjoying this project with us! -Laura "Lola" Baltzell
I've been friends with Lola, Lucy Z-M, and an acquaintance of Otto's since college days. Emma, now a young artist, I've known since she was a little girl growing up on my street. Adrienne and I share the experience of motherhood and now making art! Like Lola, I have faced breast cancer, and there's nothing quite like it to light a fire under one's backside and urge one to leap. And leap I did into the studio, Tolstoy, and "The War and Peace Project." Thank you, Lola.
For me, one of the most exciting aspects of the War and Peace Project is the tension between the book and the project. One could say that by destroying an unquestionably rich, classic narrative text to use the pages for our own version of artistic expression is sinfully self-centered and insensitive. Do I really feel this way? I don't know. . . BUT I do know that this is one reason I find the project so fascinating. The struggle to make connections, find meanings, and ultimately to create something of value. And of course, the collaborative fun we have in the studio and beyond!
As a new art student, this project could not be more beneficial. It has taught me the importance of being playful with your work and open minded to new things that are outside of your comfort zone. Our studio is like a sanctuary where I feel fearless, and these feelings are beginning to translate to my other work. I have been so invigorated by the War and Peace Project and I am eternally grateful to be connected to these wonderful people who all love this process as much as I do. -Emma Rhodes
War and Peace is one of my favorite books, so when Laura told me about the project and invited me to contribute a few collages, I immediately said yes. I read the book for the first time in college during a course on the works of Leo Tolstoy and a second time two years later during a long bicycle trip across the United States. Last year, I read it for the third time after reading reviews of the new translation by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky. It can be a tough book to get started on, but there comes a point when the reader cares so much about the main characters, especially Natasha and Nicolai Rostov, Pierre Bezhukov, Andrei and Marya Bolkonsky, that it becomes hard to put down. History, romance, drama and action. It's all there -- a real thriller. -Otto Mayr
What a pleasure it's been to make these collages without pressure or scrutiny, the collaboration being the purpose, the end product being a gift that comes from friendship, positivity, and enthusiasm. -Adrienne Wetmore
Having Tolstoy's characters, his observations and narrative about life, death, religion, belief, war, men, women, love, are all inspiration in many ways for the conversation in the studio, and I hope that somehow these themes find their way into the collages, if not explicitly, then somewhere in the background. I have found myself wondering, what would Tolstoy think of this project? I read an essay of his entitled, "what is art?" and I think of that, if the emotion of these themes comes through in any way, then he would think that would be ok.
I have lived in Boston since 1983, with a couple of years off while I lived in Beijing in the mid-80s. I currently teach high school history in Boston; public education budgets being what they are, we do not have an art department, nor much of a budget for art supplies. In U.S. History we ask the students lots of questions about "cause and effect." When I read Tolstoy's essay at the end of War and Peace, it blew my mind. He says in wrote it because he was trying to explain what happened in 1812, and to do that he had to go all the way back to 1805. And somewhere along the way, he concludes that no one thing causes another one thing-- loosely translated, everything that has happened is the cause of what is happening and what will happen. Oh my. Hard to put that in a cause and effect table. Anyway, I don't know if this is changing thew way I teach yet, but it certainly gives me pause about the static information we find in textbooks! I love being able to explore an artistic side while reading such a piece of literature that is also tied to large sweeping historical events. Somehow some of this makes it's way into my teaching.