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The Gateway To Sedona Artist Competition, Sedona Art Prize, Promotes Freedom of Expression Through "Make Art Not War"

trumptopus by nadia rawle

Above: "Trumptopus" by artist Nadia Rawle, entered at the Gateway To Sedona Artist Competition / Sedona Art Prize (PaintingContest.org).

Sedona, AZ: Also known as "The Gateway To Sedona Artist Competition," the Sedona Art Prize painting contest has, in less than a year, attracted well over 1000 paintings by approximately 400 professional artists from all over the world. 

In addition, the Gateway To Sedona team (principals of Range Dog Publishing Inc) has recently established the trademark for the catch phrase "Make Art Not War" which will now be used as a brand-following statement in its effort to promote artists in diverse places around the world. Our mission includes assisting people who have no access to art supplies or art sam goldofsky auschwitz david kassanSam Goldofsky, Survivor of Auschwitz by artist David Kassan. Entered at Sedona Art Prize / PaintingContest.org.education so that they can use their artistic talents as a path out of poverty.

 However, Make Art Not War, taken to the next level, represents art as the highest expression of freedom of speech. Creative works are capable of making statements that are understood by all, and cross cultural and political boundaries to express an idea whose ultimate goal is to promote peace. 

Sometimes this takes the form of protest. There are issues such as social injustice, violence against those who are defenseless, those affected by war, and racial inequality, whose voice can be found in works by artists. At other times it takes the form of raising our consciousness about historical tragedies, environmental issues, and the preservation of endangered wildlife.

Paintings by a number of artists currently participating in the Sedona Art Prize make statements directed at raising the consciousness of the viewer about a variety of issues. Participating artists such as David Kassan, Michelle McCune, Nadia Rawle, and Sam Hall fall into this category.

New York artist David Kassan has entered two magnificent oil paintings depicting Holocaust survivors Samuel Goldofsky and Elsa Ross. His painting, “Sam Goldofsky, Survivor of Auschwitz” won Best In Show in August 2016, and “Else Ross, Hidden Child of the Holocaust” was selected as a finalist for the month of October (also 2016). At first glance, his superbly detailed, hyperrealistic images may be mistaken for photographs. On closer examination, they come to life as profoundly expressive portraits of people who have endured unimaginable hardship.

Kassan and his two partners, journalist Dan Maccarone and filmmaker Chloe Lee, have formed the Edut Project, to capture and tell Holocaust survivors’ stories through Kassan’s paintings as well as written profiles and short films. To date, Kassan has painted four survivors – Goldofksy, Ross, and twin sisters Roslyn Goldofksy and Bella Sztul. Three of the four survivors recorded their testimonies for the Visual History Archive. The Edut Project’s goal is to create a website that will display the paintings as well as the written and multimedia aspects of each survivor’s story, and also open a multimedia gallery exhibition. Kassan and his partners hope to raise $450,000 to fund 17 more paintings and accompanying elements, including the exhibition and a book.

From our perspective, Kassan’s Edut Project is extremely important to all of us, especially the younger generation—among those who may not be aware of or completely understand the magnitude and horror of the Holocaust. Also, there are still those who deny to this day that the Holocaust actually happened. Kassan’s work helps validate and preserve those memories and its devastating effect on innocent victims.

Another artist who has used the canvas to make a statement about the futility and cruelty of war is British artist Sam Hall who recently entered the painting “What Else Can I Do?” The painting depicts a man sitting in a chair playing the cello amid bombed out ruins of Sarajevo Bosnia during the early 1990s. The cellist depicted in the painting was Vedran Smajlovic, the lead cellist for the Sarajevo Symphony Orchestra. When Smajlovic asked why he was sitting in the chair he replied, "Last week, 22 of my fellow countrymen were queuing for bread here and were killed by a mortar shell—and I don't know what else I can do!" In honor of the twenty-two men, women and children who died as he watched helplessly, he played in the ruins for 22 days, eventually with army snipers protecting him.

what else can i do by sam hall

Above: "What Else Can I Do" by artist Sam Hall. Entered at Sedona Art Prize / PaintingContest.org.

Sam Hall was a career journalist, ending up as an on-screen television news reporter and anchor for the United Kingdom’s most prestigious news program “News at Ten.” During his career as a journalist, he covered the 1982 Israeli Siege of Beirut that had a lasting impact on him.

His experience also influenced another of his most poignant and controversial paintings, “Gaza.”

To start the slide show of the painting "Gaza," click on a photo:

According to Hall, “The Gaza conflict has been going on for 2000 years, and whenever statesmen visit Israel they are taken to the Holocaust Synagogue because the Israelis do not want people to forget or deny the Holocaust. It seems to me when the Israelis commit atrocities, however they may justify them, we should not forget that either. There are always two sides to a conflict and in this one, two sides have been wronged and have each committed atrocities. That should never be forgotten. What "Gaza" is all about is to say 'Let's not forget' — and remember that if you believe in the concept of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, you are likely to end up with a nation of blind, toothless people.” Hall believes that the events of World War II and the Holocaust rightly should be remembered, but that being so, and all things being equal, so should the Israel invasion and occupation of the Gaza Strip be remembered, no matter what the rights, wrongs, and provocations were, or who committed atrocities.

Canadian Artist and Doctor of Veterinary Medicine Michelle McCune specializes in wildlife paintings inspired by her travels to such places as Namibia and Zimbabwe, Africa, and numerous trips to South America and Costa Rica. Michelle’s painting, “Sudan – Facing Extinction,” was selected Best In Show for November 2016 in the Sedona Art Prize.

In the description of her painting, Michelle writes, “Sudan is the last remaining male northern white rhinoceros left in the world. He lives at Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya. I was fortunate enough to have met Sudan in January 2016. it was hard to describe the elation and sadness I felt at the same time, this painting is a tribute to Sudan and all other animals at risk of extinction.”

sudan facing extinction northern white rhino

Above: Sudan Facing Extinction by artist and veterinarian, Michelle McCune, DVM.

According to Wikipedia: As of November 2015, there are only three rhinos of this subspecies left. They all belong to the Dvůr Králové Zoo in the Czech Republic but live in the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya and are protected round-the-clock by armed guards. According to the latest IUCN's assessment from 2011, the subspecies is considered “Critically Endangered (Possibly Extinct in the Wild).” See the expanded northern white rhinoceros story at Wikipedia.

According to Michelle, “I paint only from my own references. This gives me the opportunity to relive some amazing experiences and share them with my audience, allowing me to instill more emotion and credibility into the pieces.” Through her paintings, Michelle developed a greater understanding of conservation problems as well as solutions, and a passion for the animals of Africa. Michelle notes, “Nothing compares to seeing, hearing and observing animals in their natural environment. My art is different than that of many other wildlife artists as I portray the animals as individuals—they have their own identities and I am very interested in behaviors and interactions between them. I try to paint animals in their wild environment whenever possible. As an artist, veterinarian, and conservationist, I strive to utilize my paintings to connect the viewer with the animal and share a precious moment of time. If we do not work together, visions such as these will vanish forever. Enjoy the journey and help us save the wonders of nature for future generations.”

Massachusetts artist Nadia Rawle has entered one of the most provocative paintings so far, given the current social and political environment in the United States. Her painting, “Trumptopus,” submitted in January 2017, depicts President Donald Trump as a multi-armed, octopus-like creature, wreaking havoc on a city. Tentacles break as they slam into buildings (symbols of society or institutions?), starting fires and inciting widespread chaos.

Nadia shares her story: “During 2016, as the US Presidential Election drew nearer, discussion around the family dinner table increasingly focused on the unlikely possibility that Donald Trump would first be nominated as the Republican candidate and then that he might actually win! All of us are left-leaning and were aghast at the prospect of such a different approach to leading the United States.”

According to Nadia, her representation of President Trump captures what she considers to be some of the bizarre anecdotes and policy statements that have followed his campaign. She believes strongly that Mexican immigrants should be treated fairly and that LGBT rights need to be recognized in this country. Nadia’s visual octopus analogy originated from a report that President Trump allegedly groped a woman on a plane. She described the experience, "like being squeezed by an octopus.” “

Nadia adds, “As an indication of how divided we are as a nation, an elderly lady commented on "Trumptopus" as I was hanging it for an exhibition in my local library, saying she "wouldn't mind being groped by a man on a plane!”

Make Art Not War Logo.In addition to words, and even surpassing other forms of media, art serves as a powerful and enduring form of freedom of expression. Art on canvas has the capacity to endure in our minds unlike print or film as it holds our attention longer with its varied symbols and narratives, honing our perceptions through new visual experiences, burning pathways in our minds as nothing else can. History is proof through examples of art telling stories that mark the time of our existence, revealing the true characteristics of human thought over the span of civilization. The artists we have highlighted represent just a few of the outstanding artists who participate in the Sedona Art Prize with their original concepts, messages, and views. Increasingly, artists at Sedona Art Prize have come to understand that it’s much more than a simple painting contest; rather, SedonaArtPrize.com (also PaintingContest.org) is fast becoming recognized as a growing international artist exhibition space and gallery with a mission to support artists, promote freedom, and ultimately contribute to peace through art—echoed in the phrase, “Make Art Not War.” Learn more by visiting www.SedonaArtPrize.com or www.PaintingContest.org.