Peace is the only adequate war memorial: ceramics installation by Ehren Tool in Palo Alto

Containers of Community by Ehren Tool detail 42 of 880 mugs, plus 8 prints

Containers of Community by Ehren Tool detail 42 of 880 mugs, plus 8 prints

Eight hundred and eighty ceramics mugs comprise a type of Old Glory reference and codex, at Palo Alto Art Center, which I am calling Palo Alto Peace Center for the next eighty eight days or so.

Here is my reading of a detail of such, about forty two cups, seven rows of six; I did not actually touch or turn these pieces, per the signs posted, but from examining other parts of the series — there are more than 14,000 cups extant — I know that each mug includes between two and five elements, plus the base of bricks or sandbags that are practically part of Tool’s signature. To my eye the piece as a whole is green, red, white, blue and orange although I will leave it to experts to fix that estimation (close enough for Plastic Alto, I like to say). Kudos to Karen Kienzle for making this happen:

1, three guys in their Army unies, circa 1941; 2, pink, “clearing barrel” gun with helmet balanced on point, as relief; 3, red; 4, green, amulet ? question mark; 6 (I am skipping five, seven and eight) green and red hearts; 9, is that Slender Man?; 10, a quote from Dwight David Eisenhower, general, president, subject of a book by Palo Altan Jim Newton, aka Ike: “it’s brutality, it’s futility, it’s stupidity” quote about you have to have served as a soldier to know the full extent — I can swap out the exact quote later, check back; 15, (I skip eleven thru fourteen) solider with pistol pointing to own head — there is a warning posted that some of the material is for mature viewers; 16, fist; 17, young man in uniform; 18, Hello Kitty, or a bootleg version of her or him, holding a rifle – this repeats a couple more times, at least, in this set, the 880; 19, Egalitie Fraternite and a skull, maybe someone’s patch that plays on the famous French motto: Ehren collects war ephemera and history, and people contribute icons and ideas; sometimes he swaps for something he really wants, he carries around a collection of these — he made these cups during a one-month residency here in Palo Alto, in June, 2014; during the year he teaches ceramics at U.C. Berkeley and shares a home/studio in town with wife and mother-in-law artists all; 20, intricate relief of a battle scene or several, over a backdrop of the pyramid you find on a dollar bill, the Masons thingy, Annuit Eucept or whatever — this also repeats in the set or super-set; 21, some Arabic writing over some artillery, rifles, in Orange; Ehren served the U.S. in the first Gulf War, Desert Storm; 22, Guy Fowlkes motif, in orange, maybe a gas mask; 23, Peace Is The Only Adequate War Memorial — source?; 25, someone named Bloom, part of BGEEA, maybe that’s the father of the school psychologist I met here and mentioned previously, from Vermont — he did work on missile or antimissile guns, Ehren found on youtube as we three were gabbing, and he was otherwise working; 26, a shrine, in relief, with three Indian or yoga gods, in blue; 27, some dude in a tie, presumably a vet or loved one of a vet; 28, this is my dad, Paul Weiss, posed in his Navy blues, in 1941 or so, when he was 18 or so and had just enlisted, he said to avoid being drafted into the army, so that he would have a bunk and not be in a foxhole, he was a radar guy on a small ship, an LCF or flag ship for a fleet, Terry and I snagged it out his wall, of his and Mom’s Palo Alto home and brought it in to the Palo Alto Art Center to scan and include, and in September, in theory, the art center will disseminate the work and we may be taking the piece home with us, Dad did meet Ehren and hopefully will make it to the show, and or the Sept. 7 event, lecture, panel; Benjamin F. Davis, Terry’s dad, who was in the Merchant Marines, unless that is her grandfather, also a U.S. veteran and buried in Colma; they never met in real life, my dad and Terry’s dad; 30, another amulet, like in 4: is that George Washington? Is that a Purple Heart? Reminds me that my Mom gave me, about 2004, as they were downsizing and feng-shuing, her dad’s medal from Rochester VFW, which I promptly squandered to burglars, Feb, 2008, while living in Barron Park; 31, something in green with eagles and the globe; 33, another Eagle insignia; 34, pin-up girls, PG-rated, in contrast to racier stuff Ehren has worked with and included in his book, giving new meaning both to Chicks with Sticks and Big Guns; in green; 35, In Times of Universal Deceit it is a revolutionary act to tell the truth — George Orwell, which reminds me of the Santa Clara Grand Jury report about Palo Alto from June 6, 2014, while Ehren was in residence here; 39, pink, soldier with pistol to head; 40, blank, white — ok, I admit I did pick this one up and inspect it: blank all four sides: did he say the blank ones are tribute to his dad?; 41, This is not Political; 42, more pyramids (actually I cannot read my notes: pyramid ndoss? Whatever. Come see the show yourself and make your own notes and notices.

Kudos to Palo Alto Art Center director Karen Kienzle for bringing Ehren Tool here and for kindly posing for moi:


edit to add, 1: I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity. Maybe I can write Jim Newton to get some context for this if it’s not in his book per se. I ripped it from brainyquotes dot com

edit to add, 2: In A Time Of Universal Deceit, Telling The Truth Is A Revolutionary Act. – George Orwell  Apparently this is a bumper sticker and not an actual Orwell idea, or maybe it was coined, pressed or thrown by a member of the Santa Clara Grand Jury who criticized us for our dealings with a developer in recent years. Close enough for Plastic Alto and more importantly for Ehren Tool, artist, father and Patriot. He hates it when you say “thanks for your service” btw. Two more things, more or less appropriate here: I counted four or five war memorials at 27 University Avenue, being eyed first for office towers and now for dense housing, and what triggered the GJ report. This never gets talked about. The historic building, the first community center, for USO, sure, but not the flagpole and monument or meeting board for VFW of old; the line “Peace is the only adequate war memorial” seems to be a completely original thought by Ehren Tool. Nice going. He also has published some of his letters to people in power, offering to give them a mug or asking them, for the sake of the troops, to be more efficient at least about their war-making. Do what you said you will do, et cetera.

About markweiss86

Mark Weiss, founder of Plastic Alto blog, is a concert promoter and artist manager in Palo Alto, as Earthwise Productions, with background as journalist, advertising copywriter, book store returns desk, college radio producer, city council and commissions candidate, high school basketball player, and blogger; he also sang in local choir, fronts an Allen Ginsberg tribute Beat Hotel Rm 32 Reads 'Howl' and owns a couple musical instruments he cannot play
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