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Published January 11th, 2016
Perlmutter Gallery becomes The Peace Chamber in honor of the Crosses of Lafayette
Lara Dutto stands in the middle of her exhibition. Photo Sophie Braccini

A unique and unusual art concept was born of the creativity and vision of local artist Lara Dutto, an exhibition that recounts and revives the crosses memorial on the Lafayette hill across from BART.
The artist says that she wanted to interpret the hill, flip it and get people to experience it differently. The set up she created takes over the entire space of the Jennifer Perlmutter Gallery in Lafayette. It is made of thousands of crosses and symbols, some made of feathery light paper, others of reflecting glass, with pictures and wood. The exhibition immerses the visitor in a light web of representations, captures the imagination and gently brings up deep emotions of compassion.
Dutto calls her creation The Peace Chamber, The Crosses of Lafayette, Re-Counted. She succeeds at revisiting and reinterpreting this site that over the years has become a symbol of the community.
Dutto has been involved with the committee that created the site 10 years ago and continues to maintain it. At the opening of the exhibition, many of the members were there, including Jeff Heaton who planted the first cross. "This site was first a protest against the war in Iraq, but it has become something bigger that means something to Gold Star parents and peace activists alike, and gets the community together" says Dutto.
The Orinda artist has seen over the years the site deteriorate in spite of the ongoing maintenance and is dreaming, like the rest of the committee, of a way to create a permanent memorial. She says that "all the cells of her body" told her to create something to "remind people of the importance of this site that make passers-by breath deeper and that reminds us that there is still out there a truth of war and people dying.
"I wanted to remind people why the crosses were put up, and that it is important for us to still be aware and awake," she says. For Dutto, the Crosses are now part of the reality of Lamorinda.
Dutto is a friend of Perlmutter, the artist who owns the gallery at 3620 Mt Diablo Blvd. in Lafayette. The two regularly meet and talk about their projects. When the idea of the exhibition started forming in Dutto's head she shared it with Perlmutter who pushed her to refine her concept. "She accepted my proposal four months ago, and it was very generous of her, because there is no commercial gain for her in this endeavor," says Dutto. Perlmutter adds that this is "a gift to the community."
Dutto created the thousands of paper crosses that hang from the ceiling, the cut out reflective ones, the wood panels and created the spatial representation she wanted to enclose visitors with these symbols of all the lives that were lost in recent wars. The artist is also an architect and a painter, and this space is her first time creating an ephemeral art experience visitors walk through.
"I wanted to create an experience of lightness, an ethereal quality, inspired by hill side, but retold," she says. She puts the visitors literally in the heart of the story.
Others also supported Dutto project, such as Lafayette Glass. She acknowledges that her project has allowed the start of a conversation between art patrons and Crosses supporters and that it will help finding a solution to memorialize the hill.
Dutto says that she has a lot of respect for the creators of the Crosses. She is the daughter of a Vietnam veteran and a peace activist, believing that war is not the answer.
The exhibition is on display in Lafayette until Jan. 28, then Dutto says that she will carefully pack it in boxes. It could be displayed in other public places if the opportunity arises, bringing anywhere its sobering reflections of loss and peace.

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