By Alicia Doyle

The Writer
Specializing in Good News
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Art exhibit explores the Iraq war, 'Hand to Hand'

Photo by Dana Bowler: "Hand to Hand" features the work of more than 130 artists and at least 1,600 gloves. Artist Cecelia Kane, who started the project, said she was inspired by her mother's gloves and her Catholic upbringing.

Peace, love, gloves

Thursday, July 3, 2008/Ventura County Star

On the first day of the Iraq war in March 2003, Georgia artist Cecelia Kane began painting one cotton glove a day, six days a week, based on daily newspaper headlines.

"In retrospect I can see that it began as a compulsion, an attempt to come to terms with the nature of violence and especially war," recalled Kane of Atlanta.

After three years of creating her original collection of painted gloves, word got around, and other artists from across the globe began to express a desire to participate in her unusual historical documentation.

The result is a traveling exhibit, "Hand to Hand," which is on display locally for two days only — today and Friday — at the Carol Henry Studio in Agoura Hills.

The show features the works of more than 130 artists and at least 1,600 artfully rendered gloves, all reflecting the ongoing news headlines about the war in Iraq. It also includes painting, photography, sculpture, video, animation, glass, paper, beadwork, printmaking, mixed media and puppetry arts.

"My goal is to use art to show the impact of war, particularly this war in Iraq that does not personally affect the majority of Americans," Kane said. "My intent is to have this witnessing be a nonjudgmental community dialogue between artists from across the USA and outside our borders."

This is the exhibit's first time in California since its first showing in Nashville, Tenn., in 2003; it has appeared in more than a dozen galleries across the nation.

"My own personal desire is for war to become obsolete as a method for solving disputes," Kane said. "However, I do not intend for this installation to be about peace alone.

"It is an artistic expression of human emotion engendered by war fear, hope, frustration, terror, horror, love," she said. "The artists in this project come from different walks of life, age and experience."

Left glove, right glove

Richard Curtis of Florence, Ala., submitted a series of photographs in which he and his wife, Lori, had chosen a pair of gloves to reflect news that occurred during the week of Jan. 21, 2008.

"I wore the left glove and she wore the right glove, obviously to indicate our political leanings," said Curtis, a "fairly liberal-minded person" whose wife is "a staunch Christian conservative Republican."

For the photographs, "we made hand gestures in response to both our feelings about the war, and our feelings for each other," he said.

The exercise was further complicated in that the media source they chose to use was the standard nightly newscast from NBC.

"Of course, most all that was covered during the week we were to respond was the economy and the presidential race," Curtis said. "It was as if the war was being forgotten. We both thought this was significant, in and of itself."

Scott Schuldt of Seattle created six gloves with Kevlar fabric, the main ingredient in modern body armor, to reflect headlines that hit during the week of June 25, 2007.

"At this point in the war, I didn't feel that it was necessary to go out of one's way to make a point; the facts speak for themselves as to what a mess the whole situation has become," he said. "The headlines for the week — and for one day, the lack of any real news — were just sad. At this point in time, no one should have to be wearing armor."

In her mother's hands

Kane's idea to transform gloves into artwork began 10 years ago after her mother died.

"I discovered pairs of gloves in several of her pocketbooks," Kane recalled. "They matched the pocketbook that held them. I was struck by how much they reminded me of her. The leather ones still held the shape of her fingers and knuckles.

"Gloves became a stand-in for humanity for me. I began to use gloves and hands in other, earlier art projects."

Being raised Catholic was another source of inspiration, she said.

"There was a lot of prayers in Catholicism that involve counting, like walking the 14 Stations of the Cross, saying a novena of nine prayers for a special intention or reciting five decades of the rosary; the idea is that if you prayed repetitively, you might get an answer at the end of the ritual."

When the Iraq war began — and a headline appeared in an Atlanta newspaper — "I knew instinctively that this would be a long haul and that the war smelled like Vietnam, with lots of questions in my mind about our purpose for invading," Kane said. "I don't want to impose my answers, only ask the questions by presenting the neutral headline on rows of identical gloves that to me, lined up on the wall in calendar sequence, resemble little bodies."

The exhibit is an important artistic record of current events relating to the Iraq war, said Carol Henry, owner of Carol Henry Studio, A Contemporary Art Salon, the host venue.

"Bringing this collaborative exhibit to Southern California broadens its impact and is an accompanying reminder of the news about the war and keeps an open dialogue going about its consequences," Henry said. "I think awareness changes history. Hopefully, this exhibit will remind people of the many costs of war."

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