Sunday, February 2, 2014

Voices of Reconciliation and Peace: Masaru Tanaka and Betsie Miller-Kusz

In August of 2013, Creation Migration painter Betsie Miller-Kusz, and Japanese photographer, Masaru Tanaka, brought their 14 year collaboration, "Peace's New Century Project", to New Mexico.  Because of their shared hopes for the future of a peaceful world, and their personal associations with the atomic attack on Japan, the artists have been collaborating to make images that transcend past disparities between the two countries and open the way for dialogue.

Miller-Kusz's father, as a young graduate student, worked on the Manhattan project and Betsie, now from the Jemez Valley, spent her early months living in Los Alamos. Masaru Tanaka is from Hiroshima Japan. His father, at the age of four, was burned when the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. When these two artists met in San Francisco in 1999, they knew immediately they had to collaborate in making images intended to heal this huge divide.

The images they create are collages of Masaru's photographs and Betsie's Earth-protecting spirit.  They elicit in the viewer responses of tranquility and transcendence. The works have been shown in Asia and the United States in venues such as the War Memorial Building in San Francisco, the Mirasaka Peace Museum in Hiroshima and at the United Nations in New York. Finally, after years of legwork, they have made their way to Los Alamos.

The exhibit, shown first in Jemez Springs, was greeted with reverence and respect, with the public participating in a ceremony and memorial alter. On August 6, 2013, at the historic Fuller Lodge exhibit in Los Alamos, contributors from various religious, community and cultural participants expanded the ceremonial aspect of the exhibit into an emotional and transformational experience. In addition to the main exhibit, a special gallery was reserved for the pieces created in Betsie's workshop with local high school students. The students, as representatives of the next generation in Los Alamos, created incredible artworks and poems which speak of great hope for the future.

High School participants with cellist, Jami Seiber and ceremonialist, Jae Agu
 Also from the Creation Migration group, artist Belinda Edwards was largely responsible for organizing the moving opening ceremony. Origami cranes, the world wide symbol of peace, were found throughout the gallery. Participants included both the artists, representatives of international backgrounds and musical tradition, of Native American traditions, of Christian, Hebrew, Buddhist, Islamic and non denominational religions, and artists and poets from Los Alamos High School. This universal group joined in adding to the ceremonial alter and a silent procession carrying candles of peace.

Artists (above, left) Masaru and Betsie.          Below, Masaru's family

An interview with Betsie Miller-Kusz, Belinda Edwards, and ceremony participant Rabbi Jack Shlachter was recorded for you-tube by Santa Fe personality Reverend Phil. This is part of his series about modern day prophets titled "Words of the Prophets".  The video captures the deep respect for peace and love of humanity intended by the Peace's New Century Project.
Please view the entire video at this web address: