Sculptureexplores unity, healing at Peace Arch park

Published on Thu, May 18, 2006 by ara Nelson

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Sculpture explores unity, healing at Peace Arch park

By Tara Nelson

For one student, it was a political satire depicting U.S. and Canadian leaders smiling and holding hands. For another, it was part of the grieving process of losing a friend.

One thing they had in common, was a theme of peace and unity, as inspired by Vancouver artist Jana Vizdal, whose sculpture, “In Unity We Soar,” is currently displayed at Peace Arch state park as part of the U.S./Canadian Peace Arch Association’s (USCPAA) ninth annual sculpture exhibit.

In it, Vizdal uses two 12-feet tall aluminum triangular “ladders” that rest against each other creating an arch with 42 painted plaques designed and created by high school students from Blaine and White Rock, B.C. schools.

“The idea was to connect the children from the two countries and give them a boost of confidence to do it,” Vizdal said.

To make the piece, Vizdal used aluminum because she thinks it resembles what a 21st century Peace Arch might look like.

Vizdal, a Czech-born artist and representative to Canadian schools as appointed by the European Art Academy, said she had learned of the Peace Arch park through a visit to the U.S., and had been thinking of doing a project working with children of different countries for some time.

“Because the Peace Arch had been in my mind for a long time, I went on a computer and I went to the USCPAA website,” she said. “The ideas started coming to my head, and one day I woke up and I saw the sculpture, I started drawing it, I had this marvelous idea.”

Vizdal said the USCPAA generally accepts only completed sculptures but they liked her idea so much they allowed for an exception to the rule.

Vizdal said when she approached the students at Blaine high school, they were enthusiastic about the idea of using a broad theme of unity to express their interpretations whether it was political, personal, social or family-oriented.

“I didn’t want just one opinion,” Vizdal said. “I wanted all the kids to be able to express their thoughts on unity in general. Students were invited to express whatever is close to them.”

She was especially touched by one plaque, in particular, which commemorated Kailey Walter, a 17-year-old Blaine high school student who died in an automobile accident earlier this year.
Vizdal had visited the school just a week after the event and was “caught in the middle of the emotion.”

Some students, she said, decided they needed to use the opportunity as part of their healing process, and that was something that Vizdal said she felt honored to be a part of.

“Some of those plaques are really, really amazing,” she said. “There’s a very deep meaning in that sculpture. It’s really taken me to a marvelous plane. It’s really become a healing project.”

Vizdal said she has several other collaborative sculptures she would like to create with young people across Canada in time for the 2010 Winter Olympics.

“Each part of the country will have different expressions and different themes,” she said. “I’m really, really looking forward to the whole process.

“It’s sort of like writing a book, there is a point where the book takes over, and you no longer have control and that’s the wonderful part of the process. I would love Blaine high school and Semiahmoo students to be part of the project as well.”

Vizdal was born in the Moravian city of Brno, in what is now the Czech Republic, and has studied art since the age of three when she met an artist at a church who let her use his painting supplies.
Before coming to Canada, she studied restoration arts at the Kunst Academy in Vienna, Austria.

In 1992, she received prizes for sculpture and painting at the Academy of Europe in Naples, Italy. Following that, she was appointed the academy’s art consultant to Canadian schools.

Her work has been exhibited in the Peruvian and the Czech embassies in London, England and private collectors in the United States and Canada, according to her website.

Vizdal said the style that most describes her work is “intuitive emotionalism,” where abstract images and colors often replace more human or tangible figures in an effort to communicate more basic emotions or energy.

“I am very much into energy and I’m so aware of how energy goes through me when I create,” she said. “Creative energy is something that we have and we can use it in different directions, and it doesn’t have to be in art, it can be in writing, poetry or in everyday life.
“When we remain creative, we remain happy because we’re tapping into who we really are.”

For more information about the USCPAA or the sculpture exhibit, visit More of Vizdal’s work can be seen at