Saturday, September 14, 2013


I have word of a traveling art project that I hope readers across the county will support and look out for on its travels.  “My Enemy” is the dream-child of the painter Yisrael K. Feldsott, who describes it as an “interactive pop-up art installation, seeking to soften and repair divisions between friend and foe.”  In collaboration with his wife, Dee O’Neal, the artist plans a return cross-country trip—a northerly trip west to east, and a southern extension on the return—in November-December this year.

Feldsott is something of a rarity, as an artist of deep social and humanitarian conscience, whose commitment spills over into his richly textured and profoundly moving paintings.  Central to the exhibit he envisions are cut-out silhouettes of two iconic kneeling figures, one derived from the self-immolating Buddhist monk, protesting the then current war in Vietnam; the other, from that well-known, searing journalistic photograph of a prisoner on his knees before a Vietnamese general who is about to blow his brains out with a pistol.  Installed behind a row of these silhouettes are six-foot metal plates inscribed in multiple languages with the words, Father, Lover, Brother, Sister, Mother, Daughter, Friend

Primary stopping places are locations associated with mindless violence against perceived enemies: California’s Pelican Bay State Prison, Laramie, Wyoming, near the site of Matthew Shepard’s murder; Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, sit of the Battle of Wounded Knee, Sanford, Florida, where Trayvon Martin died.  The artist also plans a video documenting the pop-up shows.

I hope this project will meet with the attention it deserves, and that it will help to generate a much-needed discussion about the hostilities that too often divide us and provoke senseless violence.  It’s a hard lesson, but if we can recognize some part of our own selves—or of our friends and family—in the enemy we project, we may learn that to commit an act of violence is to violate not only our victim, but ourselves.  If George Zimmerman had seen Trayvon Martin not as “the enemy” but as his brother, he would surely not have fired the bullet that took the young man’s life.  If the three men who brutally attacked James Byrd Jr. and dragged him to his death behind their pickup truck had seen in him a father, lover, brother instead of an unknown, irrationally hated black man, they would have been unable to commit their crime.  These, and so many other tragic stories speak too eloquently of contemporary America.

Feldsott’s project is intended to change hearts and minds with the reminder that those we perceive as our enemies are not very much different from ourselves, and are entitled to the respect and kindness we expect to receive from others.  The visual drama of his installations makes this insight simple and inarguable.  Few, I think, could witness this exhibition and not be moved by it call for understanding and compassion.  To stay up to date with itineraries and further information, there is a website available at

PLEASE NOTE: in New York City, "My Enemy" will be on view at The Tibet House on October 20th, 2013, from 2 - 4 PM.  For updates on other locations, itineraries and further information, the relevant website is

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