Wilmington College to Present 15th Westheimer Peace Symposium

Many of the internal conflicts of war will be dissected at the 15th annual Westheimer Peace Symposium Oct. 19 at Wilmington College’s Hugh G. Heiland Theatre.

The daylong event, which is free of charge, is titled “Our Challenge: Transcending the War Within.

Featured presenters include Pulitzer Prize-winning foreign correspondent Chris Hedges and Specialist John Crawford, a former National Guardsman in Iraq who wrote “The Last True Story I’ll Ever Tell.”. Also appearing will be Anne Welsh, the wife of Norman Morrison, who, in 1965, gave his life in protest of the Vietnam War; and J. Kadir Cannon, an artist who will use words and images that embrace the paradigm of peace.

At 2:45 p.m., Cannon will present “Who’s Telling Our Story? A Narrative Performance with Words and Images.”

Cannon is known for using his artwork for activism. His works and art events are designed to inspire, outrage and empower his audiences. Cannon questions the stories we tell ourselves as a nation and a culture, asking, “Do the stories told by the corporations and the news media create the paradigm in which we want to live?”

He contends stories that glorify war will create war and those that honor peace will create peace.

Cannon’s presentation is in conjunction with his exhibit, “Anguished Art: Outcries for Peace,” which will be featured in the adjacent David and June Harcum Art Gallery from Oct. 19 through Nov. 20. An artist’s reception is planned during the Peace Symposium from 4 to 6 p.m.
Hedges’ presentation at 7:30 p.m. will cap off the day’s activities.

In his book, “War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning: The Truth about War,” Hedges portrays “the disease that is war” and how it infects and destroys individuals and societies.

Steeped in what he calls the “addiction” of war, and having lived and worked alongside soldiers for more than a decade, he is perhaps well qualified to expose the intoxication and euphoria of wartime.

In his own words, “The only way to guard against it is finally to understand what it does and how pernicious it is, and the myths
and lies that we use to cover up the fact that, at its core, war is death.”

The audience will have an opportunity to engage in direct dialogue with the presenters from 4:15 to 5 p.m.

As 1:15 p.m., Welsh will present “Because the Fire Still Burns: Norman R. Morrison and the Vietnam War,”

Forty years ago Morrison, a Quaker, felt led to make this extreme sacrifice in the manner of Vietnamese Buddhist monks. Left behind were his wife, Anne, and three small children. The incident took place in Washington D.C. outside the office of Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara

Welsh has been sharing her story in recent years and, in 1999, visited Vietnam. A freelance journalist, she is nearing the completion of a memoir in which she shares her own spiritual journey of healing and forgiveness.

Crawford’s presentation will open the symposium at 10 a.m.

Crawford joined the National Guard in Florida as a means to a college education. He tells the story of fighting a guerilla war in Iraq they neither wanted nor expected — or were trained to fight, and how many of them are coming back homeless, bankrupt and estranged from their spouses.

The symposium is named in honor of former Cincinnati residents Charles and May Westheimer, both of whom died during the past year. Their moral and financial support led to the establishment of the symposium in 1991 as a forum that promotes peacemaking, social justice, humanitarian service and respect for all persons.

A symposium brochure is available by contacting the Peace Resource Center at WC at (937) 382-6661 ext. 371.

Current Solo Exhibition: Harcum Art Gallery, Wilmington College, Wilmington, Ohio

Anguished Art, Outcries for Peace
The human cost of war

An Artist’s Anguish

Known primarily for the elemental naturalism and poetic symbolism of his prior art work, J. Kadir Cannon was forced to redirect his work with mythological and spiritual themes after 9-11 and the beginning of America’s war on terror. Cannon’s abrupt change in the visual direction of his art occurred as he pondered the horrors the human animal is capable of inflicting on itself. “I was seeing the stuff of nightmares on my television screen and on the front page of the newspaper. An artist can’t ignore these images. The only way I knew how to respond to my own feelings of disgust, anguish, and despair was to work with these images and try to make sense of their causes and their impact on our lives.” Cannon’s early works are poetic and esoteric. In contrast, his recent works are quite graphic in the depiction of violence and the subject of war. Though still mythical and spiritual, his pieces are also didactic, critical, and political.

Cannon’s The Human Cost of War is a wall-relief sculpture made with clay and found objects and debris. The piece also uses lights built within the work to create depth and shadow. There its similarity to previous work ends. Cannon describes the piece, “This painting puts a human face on what the military likes to call ‘collateral damage.’ It depicts the carnage after a bombing attack. Two dead bodies are buried amidst the ruins and rubble. Two parents are grieving the dead child they are holding. An anguished mother, reminiscent of Picasso’s screaming woman in Guernica, is holding a dead child. The mother is shrieking in anger and grief, one hand raised with fingers as claws towards a jet bomber flying overhead.”

Another piece in the show, Modernity, Protecting Our Way of Life, shows a young woman in a bikini, in front of a lake where motor boats are speeding by. She is waiving an American flag patriotically while sitting upon a heap of discarded rubbish of soda bottles and bent cans. Underneath the rubbish, as though in another world, are the sculpted images of a mother, a child and a younger child, who is either dead or sick. “These buried people are people from the ‘majority world,’—what people usually refer to as the ‘third world,’” explains Cannon. This art piece is executed in two different styles. The bottom half is a relief constructed of clay and found objects. The upper half is painted as flat realism. “I wanted to depict the flatness and cultural clumsiness of our society as it exploits people and buries the rest of the world in debris,” Cannon says.

The Human Cost of War

Cannon’s work not only depicts the suffering, but also points to causes of this brutality. Through his artwork, he portrays the arrogance of overt nationalism and blind patriotism, the arrogance of religious fanaticism, and the greed of unchecked corporate power. “Einstein once said that nationalism is the scar on the face of humanity. And Eisenhower warned us decades ago about the dangers of the military-industrial complex. In our personal and foreign policies, we are not heeding these prescient warnings,” Cannon muses. “Blood for oil. Greed for power. Greed for material objects. Wastefulness of a consumer society. I am compelled to bring these issues into my work so we can confront them as a society. That is the artist’s job—to hold up a mirror. This isn’t pretty. We have to change these nightmarish images.”




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