Arlene Elizabeth
DEAR MR PRESIDENT
2009
9'x8.5'
Capturing and reflecting the affirmative and healing spirit in this nation post-election was the goal of this portrait. Taking the mosaic to the public arena and having passersby write messages on the excess canvas transformed the piece into a postcard of the courtship between the President-elect and our country, and world.

Up-close viewing of the mosaic reveals a complexity of skin-tone that includes every imaginable shade of humankind. Increased distance from the canvas allows these individual elements to unite and blend into the skin of one man, again illustrating the importance of perspective, both in this work and in life.

People are eager to express their civic pride, hope for the future, frustration, love, political I.Q., desires and contributions by engaging the art. Including public dialogue moves the art from simply a beautiful portrait into a document of this moment in time.

Some examples of comments include: An 11-year-old who wrote "Dear Barack Obama, thank you for making my Mom cry out of happiness". Another participant--Pili--who, like me is of mixed-heritage, wrote in Hawaiian:

Aloha ç ke alaka‘i, ke kia‘i, ka hopena o ka lâhui... aloha nô iâ‘oe!
E mai poina nâ mea nô‘eau o kou ‘âina hânau:
Ke aloha ka mea nui.
Ua mau ke ea o ka ʻâina i ka pono.
Ç ho‘opômaika‘i mau loa iâ‘oe â iâ ka honua â pau.

Which translates to:

Aloha o leader, guardian, hope of the nation... aloha indeed to you!
Never forget the wisdom of the land of your birth:
Aloha is the most important thing.
The life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness.
May you and the whole world be forever blessed.


Several versions of this image will be created, including one large format image which will be constructed by Berkeley High School students. On inauguration day, the students will rally themselves to write thoughts, wishes, hopes and blessings on the surrounding canvas. The completed piece will then be sent to the White House as a symbolic postcard of hope from the students (and California) to the new president.

Other smaller format portraits will be donated to local non-profits for fundraising efforts.
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