Monday, April 20, 2015

Love Songs to the City

by Gregg Chadwick

Turn the nightly news on today, or scan the latest headlines on your iPhone, and it would seem that the world grows uglier each day. Eleven years ago, I wrote about my search for images of peace. I hearken back to those thoughts prompted by a memory of a time in Perth, Australia reading an art review concerning an exhibition about peace. Most of the images in  the show were anti-war but few if any were really about the idea of peace. The title of the review was "how do you paint peace." Prompted by these ongoing concerns, I have been creating a new series of paintings using ideas of New Urbanism - Los Angeles in particular with peace as a subtext. What the amazing writer, actor, and teacher Claudette Sutherland, in my studio yesterday evening, called "Love Songs to the City." 

Gregg Chadwick
Third L.A. (for Christopher Hawthorne)
30"x24" oil on linen 2015
Three books published in the last few years should be on every peacemaker's bookshelf: Steven Pinker's The Better Angels of Our Nature, Michael Shermer's The Moral Arc, and the Dalai Lama's Beyond Religion: Ethics for a Whole World. These three volumes begin with the premise that global violence on an historical timeline is not getting worse and that humanity is generally good. 

Gregg Chadwick
Thursday's Child
8"x6" oil on panel 2015
 Pinker's book successfully argues that the past was a much more brutal time. “The decline of violence may be the most significant and least appreciated development in the history of our species,” Pinker writes. As Elizabeth Kolbert notes in The New Yorker,"Another key development in Pinker’s narrative is the rise of cities, which in turn demanded stricter codes of conduct." This thought in Pinker's work connects to my painterly exploration of our new era in Los Angeles.  As the architecture writer for the Los Angeles Times explains - there have been three distinct iterations of modern L.A.:

"The First Los Angeles, stretching roughly from the city’s first population boom in the 1880s through 1940, a city growing at an exponential pace built a major transit network and innovative civic architecture.
In the Second Los Angeles, covering the period from 1940 to the turn of the millennium, we pursued a hugely ambitious experiment in building suburbia –- a privatized, car-dominated landscape –- at a metropolitan scale.
Now we are on the cusp of a new era. In a series of six public events, some on the Occidental College campus and others elsewhere, the Third Los Angeles Project will explore and explain this new city. "

 Shermer argues that because of the Enlightenment, thinkers consciously applied the methods of science to morally solve social struggles and that again, on an historical timeline, humanity is in the most moral period in history. 

The Dalai Lama makes it clear in Beyond Religion: Ethics for a Whole World that an individual does not have to be religious to be ethical. Love and compassion are necessities for living. Compassion expresses deep sensitivity to the sufferings of others and a fierce drive to help alleviate those sufferings. Compassion is also the realization that we - human beings, animals, and the earth itself - are all interconnected.

Again I ask you: 
How would you paint peace? 
How would you create the idea of peace in your music? In your writing? In your life?

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