What does peace look like?
How can we visually represent the moral, political and spiritual dimensions of peace?
Someone knitted peace and wrapped it around a phone pole.
Fortunately, a visual vocabulary was established by the founder and by all of the people who followed by “planting” poles displaying the traditional text:
“May peace prevail on earth”
Shortly after the Second World War he, Masahisa Goi, planted the first peace pole in Japan. There they have a tradition of makng posts with vertical text on them. So Goi wrote “May peace prevail on earth” in Japanese on one and had it translated into a different language on each side.
“Peace” in his Handwriting
Someone else wanted one and it became a movement.
The same “Peace” in a Japanese font
Now more than 200,000 peace poles have been planted everywhere from the North Pole to the Gaza Strip, often in ceremonies at which they have been dedicated by everyone from President Jimmy Carter to Mother Theresa.
“Peace” in Mandarin
Glass melted on copper
Wouldn’t it be cool to make peace poles out of that?
As you can see the Chinese word for peace is the same as the Japanese, except with the characters in reverse order. China had an alphabet for about 3,000 years before Japan and Japan borrowed from it.
Sometimes working on these translations takes more time than making the peace poles. Translations aside, it usually takes about ten weeks for me to make one. Although, if you really are in a rush, I probably can make your deadline, depending on what you order.
Above is the color of patina on a copper Peace Pole when it is new.
It took a few years of experimenting to get a patina on copper that I liked. This one needs a few months in the rain to tone down the blues and bring out the darker undertones.
The color of my welding shed above could be on a peace pole for someone who likes rust.
I experimented with making them out of glass and a variety of other materials.
Even wood a long time ago
Most of the peace poles that people make are wooden posts that are 3 and a half inches wide and, once planted, about 6 feet tall. I make them wider and taller to give them “presence” to legitimize the message. And I make them out of materials that last for generations. More often than not mine go to parks, campuses or churches.
Cap for a peace pole at a Dojo in Sweden
Once I made one for a family designing a garden around it for their daughter’s wedding.
Design of landscaping for a park
Quite a few have been given as gifts, sometimes from a scout troop or a graduating class after a period of fund raising. Sometimes to a soldier as a homecoming gift.
Paver layout design around a 5-sided peace pole
Years can be spent raising funds. Such was the case for the peace pole below. It was planted by the Westminster High School in Maryland. They needed a place to grieve after a tragedy, so they built a plaza with seating around their limestone peace pole.
Broad community support is common for these efforts, as was shown in an article in the Miami Herald in 2006 about the Opa-locka peace pole saying, “This unveiling is part of ongoing initiatives . . . to teach elementary school children how to resolve conflict.” As partners making this possible they listed:
A Department of Justice grant to the Opa-locka Police
The non-profit group “Non-Violence Project USA”
The Opa-locka Elementary School
Opa-locka/Hialeah Flea Market
Cigarette Racing Team
I have made art that was about peace but that wasn’t peace poles, like the dove with olive branch above (30 inch long wings) and the painting of pacifist Einstein below, but I don’t often because trying to make a better peace pole takes all of my time.
Peace Pole caps I discarded
William de Kooning worked for a year and a half on his “Woman,” applying paint, scraping it away, starting over, painting over the top of it, mixing large volumes of paint with solvent or water or eggs to delay its drying so that he could keep working and reworking it.
For me peace poles are like that, but with piles of scrap metal afterwards.
I threw these away too
I am not sure why more people do not arrange interior illumination when getting this kind of peace pole. You just call an electrician and remind him/her no galvanized metal can touch copper or stainless (plastic utility boxes and stainless fasteners are available at any HomeDepot-like store) and put a single spotlight inside. The tops are removable for changing the bulb every ten years.
What can be done to make them speak more evocatively?
Leaning on welding shed at dawn
What can make peace poles more of a part of the communities in which they stand? I continually work on that.
“Art can imagine a different future.” – Maya Lin
“Knowledgeable, clear-minded thinking applied to effort can create the future that art imagines.” – Joel Selmeier
Below I’m Imagining
International Day of Peace
September 21 is the United Nation’s annual International Day of Peace marking the anniversary of the passing of the “General Assembly Declaration on the Right of Peoples to Peace.” That declares, among other things, that the preservation of the right of peoples to peace and the promotion of its implementation constitute a fundamental obligation of each State.
Some who promote the anniversary say it is celebrated by someone in almost every country on earth.
It is the deadline for the majority of peace poles created each year.
I catch my breath a month later.
International Flags at a Peace Pole Dedication Ceremony at Hopesprings in Peebles, Ohio
If you find yourself muttering, “If I don’t get to cut steel tomorrow, I shall go mad,” you might be a sculptor waiting for an injury to heal.