Grinnell alum Laura Baltzell ’83 began the War and Peace Project in 2008, when she began making collages on each page of a 1970’s soviet edition of War and Peace. Six other artists joined in on the project. After touring a number of prestigious museums around the world, the piece now resides in the Burling Gallery. There are nine sections of about 70 pages each, arranged in five neat rows.
The first two clusters of pages have a warm and ornate aesthetic; the text is highlighted with fringes of gold, yellow and red. The style seems to mimic the extravagance of the Russian aristocracy. The theme of the third block is cooler, many of the pages are blue and green, and are reminiscent of the hues of nature. Although I don’t know if the sections are arranged chronologically, these pages seem to depict where we are in the book now because the characters are in nature. As the piece progresses, white becomes the dominant color, which makes me think that winter plays a role in Book 3. Suddenly, the tone changes. The text is covered and mangled by splotches of red and cut-out images are imposed on the page. As I continued, the words were covered completely and the collages became uglier, darker, and physically heavier as well. The textures represent violence and darkness. Baltzell glues three dimensional items onto the pages. One such item is a small blue self-help book called Little Treasures. This was my favorite touch because it referenced Tolstoy’s devotion to self-improvement and it was just so darn cute. I encourage you to check out the exhibition!