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Lovegrove announces 'Painting Peace' collaboration with Southwest Florida

Inspired by the upcoming Yoko Ono exhibition at the Bob Rauschenberg Gallery, Matlacha artist Leoma Lovegrove has announced a collaborative project that will enable thousands of Southwest Florida residents and visitors to "Imagine Peace" in an artistically experiential way. Between now and March 29, Lovegrove will encourage folks to "imagine all the people living life in peace" by painting a peace symbol in various shades of blue on a museum-quality 9 by 12 foot canvas that she will take to various locations throughout the area.

Painting Peace will enable local people and visitors to translate thoughts of peace into emotionally-based artwork.
Courtesy of Lovegrove Gallery & Gardens
Imagine Peace billboard on Tamiami has inspired local artist to get people Painting Peace.
Tom Hall, 2014

"I plan to kick off the campaign at Blue Mangrove on January 16," reports Lovegrove, who has a solo show opening from 3-6 p.m. at the Marco Island gallery on that date. Lovegrove will have the canvas, brushes and ten shades of blue paint set up inside the gallery so that guests attending her opening can paint peace signs on the canvas while imagining what life in 2014 would be like if there were "nothing to kill or die for" and "no need for greed or hunger, a brotherhood of man."

"Some people will paint ovals or circles, others squares. Some will have hearts inside. It's completely up to each individual to decide what their peace symbol will look like," explains Lovegrove, who is thrilled that Yoko Ono's conceptual art will be represented in Fort Myers at the Bob Rauschenberg Gallery. "Art brings people together. It unites people."

Which is precisely what Yoko Ono Imagine Peace co-curators Kevin Concannon and John Noga and Rauschenberg Gallery Director Jade Dellinger hope will happen at and as a consequence of the Ono exhibition.

The magic of Yoko Ono Imagine Peace is that it works on the collective zeitgiest first of the audience, then of the surrounding community, and ultimately the entire world. Say "imagine peace" enough, and you will. Write your individual wish for peace on a tag and attach it to Yoko's Wish Tree, and you have converted thoughts to action. Hear that your wish has joined more than a million others at the Imagine Peace Tower in Iceland, and you may just come to believe that peace is not just possible, but inevitable if enough energized people come to share that dream.

And that conviction lies at the heart of Lovegrove's Painting Peace initiative. Although Lovegrove is working independently of the artist, Concannon, Noga, Dellinger and the Rauschenberg Gallery, she hopes to inspire people who come in contact with her and the project in much the same way that the Rauschenberg exhibit and the Imagine Peace billboard on Cleveland Avenue will positively impact those who see them. "I have been a Beatles fan all my life," Lovegrove expounds. "This is the 50th anniversary of the British invasion, and even today, portraits of John Lennon are highly coveted by the people who visit my gallery on Matlacha Island. One of John's most touching songs is Imagine, and I know that the lyrics were inspired in part by Yoko."

Back in the 1960s, Ono created so-called "instruction paintings" that were nothing more than textual instructions for imagining scenes or objects that would fill empty frames. One of those conceptual paintings was called Cloud Piece, whose instructions begin "Imagine clouds dripping ...." That thought fragment later inspired Lennon's 1971 song Imagine, which John recorded with Yoko by his side.

While Lovegrove is deeply religious (husband Mike is a preacher and author of religious books), it's not hard for Lovegrove to imagine people living for today. Or attending her Painting Peace events in order to express their own frustrations with the continuous stream of wars and rumors or war that fill the headlines and news feeds of every paper, news cast and social media outlet.

"Painting Peace will enable members of our community to think about war, and the impact it's had on them personally, and imagine what it would be like if everyone could just get along and live peacefully," Lovegrove adds.

Tangentially, Painting Peace will serve to draw attention to Yoko Ono Imagine Peace, a result that Lovegrove will buttress by having literature at each venue that tells people about Wish Tree and urges them to go to the Rauschenberg Gallery so that they can attach their personal wish for peace to the tree. All the wishes collected during the two-month exhibit will be sent to Yoko, who will forward them to the Imagine Peace Tower in Iceland, where more than a million other wishes await.

She also hopes that Painting Peace will inspire others throughout Southwest Florida to give voice to their own reactions to both Yoko's art and the Imagine Peace billboard on Tamiami Trail.

Leoma undertook a similarly ambitious project in 2011 in conjunction with the 10-year observance of 9-11. In Remember 9-11, people chose the name of a victim from a fish bowl and then painted it on an even larger, 12 x 20 foot canvas. "It not only allowed them to process their own deeply emotional feelings about that tragedy, but to connect to the victim whose name they drew. Many actually researched the victim on their laptops and tablets while they were still at the event. Some even contacted the family to tell them that they'd painted their loved one's name on the canvas," relates Lovegrove, who shared in their pain and catharsis during the course of the 4-month Remember 9-11 tour.

Lovegrove has yet to set dates for her other Painting Peace events, but she intends to "keep it on the islands - Sanibel Island, Captiva Island, Pine Island, Staten Island, Long Island, Anna Marie Island, Useppa Island and so on." And between events, the canvas will reside on Matlacha Island, where the 500 or so people who visit Lovegrove Gallery & Gardens each day will have the opportunity to add their painted blue peace symbol to the 9 x 12 support.

For more information about Painting Peace, please call Lovegrove Gallery & Gardens at 239-283-6453 or follow Painting Peace on Facebook. The gallery is located at 4637 Pine Island Road NW, Matlacha, Florida 33993.

For more information on Lovegrove's January 16 show and 3-6 p.m. Painting Peace event at Blue Mangrove Gallery, please telephone 239-393-2405, email bluemangrovegallery@gmail.com or visit http://bluemangrovegallery.com/. Blue Mangrove Gallery is located in Suite 417 of the Marco Town Center, 1089 N Collier Blvd., Marco Island, FL 34145.