Artist Bio

Welcome to the Crosses of Lafayette. Please click on the following link for more press on the Crosses of Lafayette. http://lafayettecrosses.blogspot.com/

In the next couple of days, I will upload the rest of the quotes for the Crosses Exhibit. The Koran quotes were provided to me by a well respected Muslim cleric with a deep knowledge of the Koran. his assistance along with new friends I have made within the Muslim community have given my a deeper understand of the Islamic faith and the people who practice it. I wanted to see the view that is not fed to us by the mainstream media. The fact is, that the overwhelming majority of Muslims around the world are exactly like us. All they want is a safe place to raise their children, thrive in the communities in which they have settled and ( in America), enjoy the promises that this country has offered to all who have come here. The founding fathers of this country created a framework of respect and acceptance to all who live here, regardless of their color or religion. i feel we have lost site of that since 9/11, it has been replaced by a culture of fear and mistrust. This country has wounded herself and needs to heal. The Muslims i have met are Persians from Iran, they are not Arabs, in fact their is a distrust between the Arabs and Persians that go back thousands of years and predates Islam. The Persians are a proud people with a very long history. With the current browbeating over Iran in the news, i sensed that it really bothered my friends. I feel in my heart that Muslim extremism is going to have to be handled by the Muslim community, not American bombs. I liken it to the rise and fall of the Inquisition in Europe. I feel that happy, healthy, employed people who can envision their future in a positive light, do not become terrorists. Islam is a religion of acceptance, not hate. Christianity is a religion of acceptance, not hate, yet the words of both of those religions can be distorted to create fear and hate in the hearts of men.

For more info on the Memorial, please Google Crosses of Lafayette

I want to update everyone on this project. It has become something of a personal quest for understanding. Understanding of the human element that flows through this work. I want to understand all sides of this story, my personal politics will of course color the images that you view here, but I never wanted politics involved in this project. To think that politics wont color your view of my images is folly at best, ignorance at worst. The local media has put their own spin on this Memorial regardless of the organizers say. We all know the score folks, you will believe exactly what you want to believe and neither the existence of the Memorial nor my images of the Memorial is likely to change that belief, thats okay, its America, we are allowed to say what we feel. I wanted to bring forth the awful beauty of the truth that flows through these images that, we, as a country, need to be reminded of now and again, just what the cost of freedom looks like. I cant bring you the feeling of sorrow that haunts this Memorial, I cant relate to you the feelings and raw emotion of the American citizens that have come to the Memorial and have cried, or have opened a debate with us, or they have ranted about whatever bothers them, indeed some have come and they say nothing to anybody, they wish to work through their feelings alone, this place has become a very personal place for MANY people. They have no other place from which they can manifest and deal with those emotions. It can be a catharsis for some. I hope it is, the emotions are running high and likely to get higher. We all have the utmost respect and are humbled by the breadth and depth of emotions that are laid bare at the Memorial. We can not and will not cease the function of the Memorial because there are some that object to the Memorial. If you want to object to the Memorial, then I strongly suggest that you come and help the folks that come here work through their fears and pain. Come and tell them what they need to hear and see if they listen to you.

Thank you all who have offered their words of encouragement and support to this project! I love you all. You are all really good artists in your own right and your kind words humble me. Lucia, Emily, Olga, Jerry, etc. Thanks! As of today 2/13/07, I'm about ready to go to print on this project. My new Muslim friends are working on my companion Qur'an quotes to my Bible quotes. I'm in the middle of test-printing and I searching for funding. Also, I should have prints for sale soon! This project is a labor of love and my way of paying respect to the creator of the Memorial, Jeffery Heaton, as well as to our sons and daughters who give all and ask nothing in return. This project involves many people in different walks of life and without their assistance and encouragement, this project would not have happened. Thank You All!

My name is Chris Donton and I am a lifelong resident of the San Francisco Bay Area. The Images shown are of a memorial set up by volunteers on a hillside in the city of Lafayette CA. They are there to commemorate the lives of US service people lost in the Iraqi war,you can go to http://groups.yahoo.com/group/CrossesOfLafayette/ to view more information about this memorial. In shooting this memorial I began to kick around ideas for possibly displaying these images with a personal message and I have hit upon few ideas. I will soon be uploading images for review on this site. Each of the top ten will be printed and framed with a quote from the Bible and a quote from the Holy Qur'an The purpose of this will be to; 1. To illustrate the underlying religious currents in this and many other conflicts throughout history. 2. To use the images and the accompanying text to relate a narrative in quotes that, as taken as a whole, leave the viewer to understand my underlying message 3. To use the similarities between the Bible and the Holy Quran to illustrate that we maybe more similar than we may be apart. 4. If I can create the nearly exact same message from both the Bible and the Quran, it really highlights how extremism in both religions works. This work that began as a photo project to document the Memorial before some yahoo figures out a way to make them take it down. This is now a spiritual journey, it didnt begin this way, but is has evolved into a quest that has tied my own past to our collective consciousness. The crosses are my Colonel Kurtz, and I cannot tell that story without telling my own. I first began to see news reports of the memorial in November of 2006, my interest grew until I went there to see for myself. The starkness of the (then) plain white crosses and their random arrangement made my think of a ragtag Arlington Cemetery planted on a hill. From a photographic sense, you couldnt have asked for a better setup, the hill, the lighting, the blue sky behind the crest of the hill. I could see finished crops in my mind as I began to shoot. What these crosses represented hung in my mind as well as the symbolism of the cross itself. When I wasnt shooting, I would watch the cars go by below. I was looking to gauge how many motorists looked at the crosses as they went by and most did. By the time I began editing the images, I began to see my own perceptions of Christianity begin to creep into the images. Most of the early images were from a very dark and disquieting place in my soul. This being a product of my experience with the Catholic Church as a school kid many years ago. I had grown disillusioned with most organized religion and objected to men twisting scripture to gain power of their fellow man. I still feel strongly that one does not need a place of worship in order to feel closeness with their God.

Still, the editing continued on a photographic level with little spirituality involved. I asked myself the question of what the images could represent to others who may see this work. I felt that it could challenge their views of Christianity by presenting the image of the cross in a less-than-comfortable way. At the same time the political overtones of these images played into my work as well. The creator of the exhibit had made it clear to the media from the start that this memorial was neither political nor religious. I believed that this was I very astute position to take. By simply calling the exhibit a memorial and not an anti-war protest, it forces people to view it differently. If the creator had simply called it an anti-war protest, I think that it would have not garnered as much attention as it has. To me, it has everything to do with religion and politics. This is a religious war (much more to Muslims than to us), and its become the eight-hundred pound gorilla in the middle of the room that no one wants to talk about. Why are we there? Why did we go? If by stating that Saddam had to go, well fine, but the genocide in Rwanda took place in 1994 yet the US did little more than pay it lip service. Yes Saddam killed many people over many years, 800,000 people died in 100 days in Rwanda and what did we do? If invading Iraq was a mission to topple a cruel dictator, fine. But the argument rings of hypocrisy and lies. The US has no interests in Rwanda, therefore the US has no interest in Rwanda. This is less about what side of the political fence that we sit on and more to do with Americas interests abroad, and what we are willing to do to protect those interests. A stable Middle East means cheaper gas at the pump. Outrageous prices for goods at home have a tendency to shorten political careers, and have toppled lesser governments. This war may have served one good purpose; it will be along time before an American president will be able to sell the people on invading other countries without a clear objective that all of the people can support. Anyways, I digress, the images are the point here. I agree with the memorial and its aims. It honors the troops without becoming overtly political. I have to imagine though if one were to honor the astounding number of Iraqi citizens that we have brought democracy to, I would think you would need a pretty large hill to honor their lives. So rather than highlight the differences between our cultures and especially our religions, I felt compelled to emphasize the similarities. Jesus is part of the Quran, as is Abraham and Moses. David is part of the Bible. Were all branches of the same tree folks. We all bleed red and contrary to what a lot of people would have you believe, The OVERWHELMING number of Muslims want exactly what we want; peace, love, a safe place to raise their children and a place in the sun. So with this in mind I set out to find the Bible quotes I wanted and I have enlisted the help of a local Islamic organization to help me with the Quran quotes. Though I could very easily find the Quran online, (as a non-Muslim) I wanted an Islamic perspective and perhaps I will learn more about Islam along the way. I have the Bible quotes together and have sent them to the Islamic organization and hope to hear back soon. This journey is not yet over and although there is an objective in mind, I have yet to see where this leads my spirit.

In uploading this exhibit before prints are made and the project is publicly shown, I encourage every artist here to comment on this work. Your critique of this project will be very valuable to me.I appreciate all of the feedback i have gotten from members on this site, thank you. I am still looking for funding for the exhibit as this will not be cheap to print, matte, and frame the top ten for the exhibit. As soon as I have an idea of what sizes I can print out, I'll be offering images for sale. Thank You.  Art is like love is like faith and beauty, its definition, and indeed its very existence lies solely with the beholder.

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