Playing Well with art

February 14, 2009

Art is the lie that enables us to realize the truth. — Pablo Picasso

I have an abiding fascination with how art can transform perceptions of our challenges. Although we may perceive the arts (painting, poetry, dance) as a cultured practice of creating beauty, historically artists have also acted as highly effective conflict transformers.    Pablo Picasso’s Guernica is a case in point. To protest a massive bombing of over a thousand Basque Guernican citizens on market day during the Spanish Civil War,  Picasso began the large mural fourteen days after the attack. The work’s subsequent tour through Europe in 1937 brought widespread attention to the brutality of the conflict and its collaborators.

Guernica, Pablo Picasso
Guernica, Pablo Picasso


This week I enjoyed reading about how art was used to creatively protest…well, art! To comment on the new Luis Jimenez blue horse sculpture installed at the Denver International Airport, real estate developer Rachel Hultin solicited “protest haikus” (a 5 syllable, 7 syllable, 5 syllable form of Japanese poetry) to provide to the Denver Mayor’s office. The 32-foot fiberglass piece with glowing red eyes and fully “equipped” had folks’ creative juices flowing. Over 200 poets added their two cents in classic form:  

Because of this thing/People think they are in hell/Instead of Denver

Ugly devil horse/horrifies the traveler/shames our fair city

DIA blue horse sculpture
DIA blue horse sculpture

Eyes redder than mine/ Little horse on the prairie / Welcome to Denver!

The latest artistic effort to capture my attention is described in the attached YouTube video.  Paul “Moose” Curtis uses inner city grime as his canvas. Through his work, he creates beauty while raising awareness about urban environmental conditions. May you enjoy and employ your creativity!

Deidre Combs

Deidre Combs is the author of three books on cross-cultural approaches to resolving conflict and overcoming challenges:  The Way of ConflictWorst Enemy, Best Teacher  and Thriving Through Tough Times. The books integrate perennial wisdom from the world’s lasting cultural traditions with systems theory and brain research.

Dr. Combs is a management consultant, executive coach, mediator and core instructor in Montana State University’s Leadership Fellows Certificate Program and Columbia University’s Teacher’s College Global Competence Certificate Program. Since 2007, she has also taught intensive leadership training to State Department-selected students, teachers and professional leaders from throughout the Middle East, Africa, Asia, Eurasia, Latin America and Pakistan’s FATA region.

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