FORT LAUDERDALE — Immediately following the Nobel Peace Prize Committee’s announcement in October that it would honor President Barack Obama with the prestigious award, Andrea Kirkpatrick began to gather quotes from numerous websites and blogs.
For the next two months, Kirkpatrick applied the quotes to 200 acrylic canvases using puff paint. Her efforts were part of a 200-foot-long “Obama Nobel Peace Prize Mural.”
The mural is now on display at the Broward County Main Library in Fort Lauderdale.
Designed by local artist Huong and 10 other people, including Kirkpatrick – who is Huong’s intern – the mural acknowledges that while Obama continues to lead wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Nobel Committee has sent a message that the president symbolizes a world where there are no conflicts, Huong said.
“We jumped for joy when we heard that Obama got the Nobel Peace Prize. He will make peace a big priority this time,” said Huong, 49, of Miami, who was in Washington, D.C. on Obama’s Inauguration Day. “He himself cannot make this thing happen. All of us have to give a hand. This exhibit is about the voice of America and the re-making of all of us.”
Earlier this month, Obama accepted the Nobel Peace Prize, acknowledging his own few accomplishments while delivering a robust defense of war and promising to use the prestigious award to “reach for the world that ought to be.”
A wartime president honored for peace, Obama became the first sitting U.S. president in 90 years and the third ever to win the prize.
Seeking to honor Obama’s accomplishment, Huong, a self-taught artist, said the 700 original paintings in the mural reflect what she felt on Obama’s Inauguration Day, and which intensified when he received the Nobel Peace Prize.
Having survived the Vietnam War, Huong fled her country in 1975 and came to the United States, where she launched her art career. During the last decade, Huong has worked non-stop on “The War Pieces,” another monumental project dedicated to war victims.
The “Obama Peace Prize Mural” is a rapid departure from the fervent peace activist’s previous works. With Obama calling for a world free of nuclear weapons and more diplomacy, Huong said she found a new quest: to capture his aspirations.
“With the transformation and new direction of our nation, I don’t think that war is our culture any more, and we go follow the road for peace. So, we concentrate on peace education,” Huong said.
Symbolism is evident through Huong’s abstract shapes of doves and peace signs, illustrating her central themes of unity and harmony. Using bright and complex colors overlaid with many layers of textures to create depth, the entire body of work urges viewers to choose a diplomatic way of solving their differences.
Another artist, Ramon Lopez, has portraits on display in the exhibit of Obama and his wife, Michelle, set among red-and-blue-painted panels, with quotes taken from Obama’s speeches.
Other paintings depicting former President Bill Clinton and his wife, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the faces of spectators in Washington, D.C illustrate the unity of Americans in voting for Obama despite their differences, Huong said.
Another section of the mural echoes those sentiments with numerous panels comprising variations of colored lines intertwining, yet connecting, to each panel.
“Visually, it’s gorgeous with outstanding pieces,” said Barbara Miller, program manager at the Broward Main Library. “We are having a war, unfortunately, and she’s from a war-torn country and is so for peace. But, she’s very open-minded. She’ll say, ‘You don’t have to like the president.’”
Photo: Artist Huong stands beside her Obama Nobel Peace Prize Mural.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: “Obama Peace Prize Mural” exhibit
WHEN: Dec. 19 through Jan. 2, 2010.
WHERE: Broward County Main Library, 100 S. Andrews Avenue, Fort Lauderdale
CONTACT: For more information, please call 954-357-7443.