Art Against War

SPC's brand new mobile Guernica mural. Photo:Carol Baum

Few know that April 26 is the anniversary of the bombing of Guernica, Spain. That bombing by the Germans (at Generalissmo Franco's request) was the first international non-military target in modern aerial warfare - a civilian population was bombed to demoralize the enemy. The painting by Pablo Picasso is modern art's most powerful antiwar statement.

A brutal civil war ravaged Spain. Forces loyal to the newly elected government were under attack by Franco's fascist coup. Franco promised prosperity and stability but delivered only death and destruction. On April 26, 1937, unprecedented atrocities were perpetrated against the civilian population of a little Basque village in northern Spain. Guernica burned for three days, and 1600 civilians were killed or wounded.

By May 1, news of the massacre at Guernica reached Paris, where more than a million protesters flooded the streets to voice their outrage in the largest May Day demonstration the city had ever seen. Appalled and enraged, Picasso sketched the first images for a mural. In this painting Picasso created a poignant monument against barbarian aggressive force; it constitutes a warning to mankind against the implications of unleashing the forces of darkness.

History proved Picasso right: Warsaw, Rotterdam, Coventry, Smolensk and Hiroshima are stations along the road that began at Guernica. Despite US rhetoric about "liberating" the Iraqi people, the US air war is responsible for the majority of Iraqi civilian deaths. When US Secretary of State Colin Powell spoke to the United Nations on February 5, 2003 to pressure the Security Council to approve military action against Iraq, a reproduction of Guernica was hanging outside the offices. New York Newsday reported that, "Diplomats at the United Nations, speaking on condition they not be named, have been quoted in recent days telling journalists that they believe the United States leaned on UN officials to cover the tapestry…" The image was covered during Colin Powell's meeting with the UN Security Council - a testament to the power of Guernica.

Local artist and activist Rose Viviano recently coordinated an effort to create a "mobile" Guernica mural for use at SPC events and demonstrations. It has already been put to good use, displayed outside Peace Action's town hall meeting on the Iraq War on April 20 and at Columbus Circle (downtown Syracuse) on April 26. Many thanks to all those who donated funds, painting space, transportation, talent and advice: Gary Bonaparte, Charlie Crafts, Lisa Denard, Jessica Maxwell, Kim McCoy, Shirley Novak, Ian Walsh, Jon Wilson, Dave Witanowski, and of course, to Rose.

If you would like to borrow SPC's Guernica for an event or to display, contact us, and we can provide informational flyers to accompany it. To connect with SPC's "Creative Team" to implement similar ideas, contact Jessica at SPC.

- Jessica Maxwell