Frances Crowe turned 96 last week. 96 Years which brought her along the way to where she stands now, a Woman who in the last 4-5 decades has gathered all of her efforts into the service of Peace. In 2014 I painted the 8 foot high Portrait of Frances Crowe, beginning in the early Summer months and completing the Portrait as the year turned. I wanted to enter into a deep investigation of what qualities and experiences might create a person who uses so much of their lives almost exclusively in the service of something as elusive as Peace. I also wanted to revisit and recommit myself to this Justice Movement known as Peace, in a way that did not look back nostalgically to the 60’s and 70’s but which brought Peace fully into this time as one of the most important issues intersecting with all others. I think honestly I had written off Peace as something that would never coexist with us in this age and perhaps not in those after it. I doubt Frances spends much time in dreamy pondering as this Artist so often does, she is on the move, in action even when she is standing still.
I recently joined a Peace march that walked from Amherst to Northampton and I walked and talked with an Activist from Vermont who was a friend and colleague of Frances. Apparently, recently in a newsletter of some sort, it was incorrectly reported that Frances had passed on and this friend cried and grieved and then decided to call Frances Crowe’s number so he could hear her voice one last time. To his immense surprise Frances answered but had no time for trivial talking about her reported death and launched directly into ideas for an upcoming Anti Nuclear Initiative. This pretty much encompasses what I know of Frances, she has a single mind toward this work and it amazes me. As a dedicated Libra, I don’t seem to be able to have a single and forceful mindset toward these issues. There is the constant weighing, balancing, Juggling, considering and questioning. Especially present is questioning of why what I think and believe is so certainly the right thing. This is why I am painting these Women, Frances, Shireen, Malalai, Rebecca. They have a kind of unapologetic certainty, a knowing faith and profound dedication to their work that makes them so very powerful.
I had the privilege of spending some time with Frances this Summer as I worked on her Portrait. I don’t paint from life, this is not my talent but I spent time looking with Frances through her dozens of scrapbooks which documented all of the Social Justice Movements that she has been a part of. We had tea and talked about the scrapbooks, the Women’s March, The Anti Apartheid Movement, Abolishing the Nuclear Plants and Weapons, Palestine and the Occupied Territories, Wall Street and of course we talked about Democracy Now. For those of you who do not know, Frances brought the daily radio news show, Democracy Now to the valley by force 🙂 She pirated the station from her own home for a couple of years and then put immense pressure on local Public/College Radio to carry it. In many ways from hearing her talk, I see that it is one of her proudest accomplishments and I for one am grateful for it Monday-Friday!
In creating this Portrayal of Frances I used her stories to fuel narratives and her essence to create the tone of the Portrait. I used my growing inspiration and reconnection to the Peace and Anti Nuclear movement to depict the collective rising and the intensity of feelings that swell and emanate from such a collective. I painted deep ancestors under the Earth, skeletons and bones with messages for us, Frances and Paki raising fists and singing, missiles and weapons wrapped in their terrible intentions, cocoons and butterflies, snakes, beets, owls and turtles, Peace is not just for Humankind. The Portrait is packed with many stories, many ideas and many who call out and reach out to those who will take the time to stand and see. The point of course is to see and honor this life of Frances Crowe, a beautiful life, but the point is also to not stop there. Be moved, connected and inspired, and let that take you somewhere!
Below is the Postcard that was created to both honor Frances Crowe and to carry forward the work that is so important to her. The tone and message of the card was chosen by Frances and I implemented it as she suggested. This Postcard is very timely because in May of this year 191 governments, relevant international agencies, and scores of civil society organizations will convene at the United Nations in New York to review and assess, for the eighth time, the implementation of the Treaty on the Non Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. This Postcard, pre-addressed to Secretary Ban Ki Moon, Ambassador Samantha Power and President Barack Obama, demands that the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty abides by its promises to work toward the security of a World free from Nuclear Weapons, as it is the only sane course to be taken. 5000+ Postcards were translated and sent to our Global Partners across the Planet. Several Thousand more are in the hands of those who left Amherst on Saturday from the Leverett Peace Pagoda, walking to Washington DC in a quest to demand Peace.
Below this Postcard image is the text printed on it’s back. We offer them free to all who will carry and pass them forward. Gratitude to Frances Crowe, The Delegation Of Peace Walkers and all who funded this campaign and helped make this possible. Special thanks to the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts and the Proteus Fund. xo
In Honor Of Peace and Justice Activist Frances Crowe
In May 2015, 191 governments, relevant international agencies, and scores of civil society organizations will convene at the United Nations in New York to review and assess, for the eighth time, the implementation of the Treaty on the Non Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. Collectively Nuclear armed nations spend over 100 billion dollars a year to sustain these weapons which bring an unspeakable threat to every Community on the Planet.
We the People state that the true nature of Nuclear Weapons is in their potential to destroy all of life on Planet Earth. We believe that no Nation has the right to create, hold or use such weapons for any reason. We take a stand here and demand that the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty abides by its promises to work toward the security of a World free from Nuclear Weapons, as it is the only sane course to be taken.
We are occupying the Planet with this renewed statement calling for the ban and elimination of all Nuclear Weapons and I personally have added my name below in support of this demand.