Peace. It’s an idea. Sometimes it’s a feeling. It’s an intangible concept that can be easily dismissed for its abstract nature. You can’t explain it. You only know it when you experience it. And somehow, art-activist Yoko Ono has managed to simplify a complex concept into something you can mold with your hands and thoughts. Crazy, I know.
After ten years, “Yoko Ono Imagine Peace” is back at the University of Akron’s Emily Davis Gallery. However, it’s much different than it was ten years ago. Since its national tour (2007-2014), many pieces have been added, some by UA alumni. “Mend Piece” is one of those creations.
“Mend Piece” is a set of broken ceramic globes. Yoko invites you to literally mend Earth with glue, tape, rope and maybe even the lone bandage provided by a crafty audience member. Obviously, I had to try my hand at “fixing Earth.” Sometimes I feel too small to make a difference, so it felt good to be standing over something I could actually do, even if it was just mending a 3D puzzle look-alike.
At first, I couldn’t find the matching pieces to fix it, and I found myself becoming emotional and slightly hopeless. Nevertheless, I was determined to leave my mark. To help. Finally, I found a tiny sliver and its corresponding groove. I [too] enthusiastically grabbed the Elmer’s and slipped it into place. Then I added a strip of masking tape and stepped back to look at my triumphant contribution. It was tiny, but it was something, and it felt good. I know that sounds so strange, but I’m here to tell you the truth, not to be coy. Look for my work, it’s the side with the tape on it.
That was a joke.
Although there are many new contributions to the exhibit, not everything has changed. The original work, “Imagine Peace Maps” is the single returning work. Not very many creations in the exhibit are hands-off. This one is no exception. It invites you to use the provided rubber stamps and “Imagine Peace” in a city that you love, then use the stamp to leave your mark. Lots of stamps were made in Northeast Ohio. So I imagined peace where some of my closest friends currently live: Wyoming. I hadn’t realized how intensely I wanted peace for them and the city where they live, and when I stamped it, part of me felt that energy would somehow reach them. Sappy, I know.
You can easily get drawn into the exhibit and stay for a long time. I was so immersed that I was there an hour and a half and it felt like 20 minutes. This is probably why, in addition to encouraging participation, the exhibit invites you to stay awhile. There’s a playlist you can listen to for two hours, a documentary on Yoko Ono’s peace journey, books and even a few chairs for you to sit, relax, contemplate and learn to say “I love you” with a flashlight.
That was not a joke.
The downstairs portion of the gallery provides a space for discovery, meditation and peace. For this reason, I recommend going downstairs first. Allow your mind and heart to open before you go back upstairs and make a wish at the “Wish Tree.” You’ll see it on your way into the gallery. Suncrest Gardens, located in Peninsula, provided two dormant redbud trees for the exhibit, and they are covered in wishes from visitors. And the most amazing part is that once the exhibit is over, all of the wishes will be sent to the Imagine Peace Tower in Iceland, where your wishes will be illuminated into the sky to spread the message of peace.
When I finally left the exhibit, I continued to think about the lack of peace in our nation and the ever-expanding gap between different races, religions and gender norms. Even now, imagining peace between human beings is making me emotional. Can you imagine a world where we relate to one another better? I imagine a time when we each respect one another and actually see the worth and importance of another human’s life. A world where we acknowledge the value of another living, breathing, feeling being. What a concept.
Try it now. Try to imagine peace.
It’s hard, I know.
“Yoko Ono Imagine Peace” on exhibit now through January 31, 2018 Emily Davis Gallery at the University of Akron Myers School of Art
Folk Hall, 150 E Exchange St Gallery hours: Monday – Friday, 10 am – 5 pm January 18: Art & Peace Discussion at 5 pm; Imagine Peace reception from 6-8 pm. Meet the curators, Kevin Concannon and John Noga, and collaborative alumni artists. Gallery is closed January 2 & 15
(Photos courtesy of The University of Akron Myers School of Art)