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Peace On Earth?

December 15, 2011

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - A powerful art exhibit opening in West Virginia this week is intended to bring home the cost of the Afghan war to the civilians in that country. Prominent Chicago mural artist John Pittman Weber helped organize "Windows and Mirrors" for the American Friends Service Committee.

When someone from the Quaker group came to Weber with the idea of an exhibit about the price Afghan civilians pay, he says he immediately felt it was worth doing.

"I said, 'I think I can get you 50 artists in a week.' Because if it all takes place sort of like a video game, then we have no idea what war really means."

"Windows and Mirrors" includes the work of dozens of artists from around the world, including pieces by Afghan and American school children. The show opens tonight at the Good News Mountaineer Garage on Hale Street in downtown Charleston. It will be exhibited at various sites in West Virginia until Jan. 27.

Weber's contribution is a piece about people learning to use prosthetic limbs. He says he saw a picture of a pile of artificial arms and legs, and could not help but think about what they represented.

"It looks like puppet parts. I put those together with a very small child learning to walk on a wooden leg."

He says he's also struck by the price American soldiers are paying and will continue to pay. The full impact of a war only comes to light slowly and painfully, he adds.

"There are countries that have actually put up monuments to the soldiers or the civilians on the other side. It's a bit unusual, but there are places that have done it. I don't think we have."

Sometimes art can help people feel an empathy they had hidden from themselves, Weber says.

"Since people think in terms of images as well as words, in a sense it's telling people something they already know, giving people an echo of their own sense of their lives."

More information about the exhibit is available at

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV