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Loraine Webb: multimedia

Dan BurkhartLoraine Webb sits in her Afghan prayer rug altar at Center for the Arts in Grass Valley Sunday.
ALL | GrassValleyArchive

Loraine Webb doesn’t tone down her opinions when it comes to her art. She demands that her beliefs, even if they’re not popular, be represented.

For example, take her Afghan prayer rug altar, which friends helped create for the fourth annual Altares del Mundo 2001 exhibit October at the Nevada County Fairgrounds.



Eileen Jorgensen of The Magic Carpet in Nevada City supplied Afghan textiles and a prayer rug. Jim and Miriam Morris provided a kneeling rug made during the Russian invasion of Afghanistan in the 1980s. And Sarah Whooley created images of the World Trade Center towers on marble slabs.




Included in the altar is Webb’s poem, “From an Afghan Prayer Rug,” written immediately after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

“It’s essentially a prayer written from the perspective of Afghan people, many of whom are far from being the Taliban,” Webb said. “My impulse is to speak against bombing of everyone.”

Webb had planned to display the altar in the Nevada City Bank of America’s lobby during January. The bank gives selected local merchants the opportunity to display their products.

Webb said bank representatives told her and Jorgensen to remove their altar a few days after they had reconstructed it in the lobby.

“Eileen gave the bank a copy of my poem and a picture of the altar beforehand. It’s an exhibit of Afghan people’s work,” Webb said. “The bank decided it was too hot to talk about peace. I think it’s very sad that we can’t talk about humanity of people caught in the conflict.”

Jorgensen said the bank’s regional bank manager told them he vetoed the project because the word “Allah” in the poem was a reference to religion.

Bank of America assistant manager Ruth Lastufka declined to comment.

Webb didn’t let the bank’s veto discourage her from displaying the altar, which is up through March at Center for the Arts in Grass Valley.

Extremely active in the community, Webb uses art to promote her views on controversial subjects. But this altar, Webb said, is the first visual art she’s shown publicly. Her focus has been on the written and spoken word, and song.

“Loraine is one of those rare individuals who is powerful, courageous and passionate about what she sees going on in the world,” Jorgensen said, “and also artistic, sensitive and with abundant talent to articulate and express her point of view.”

Webb has become increasingly vocal on the Internet about the need to stop the current war in Afghanistan before President Bush declares war against other countries in that area. She said she has been called a terrorist by a few anonymous phone callers.

“I don’t know where these calls are coming from. Angry extremists equate peace with the terrorists. It’s insanity,” Webb said.

The phone calls only fuel Webb’s determination to continue to promote her beliefs.

She is helping plan a March 14 altar dedication at the center that will include music, poetry, spoken word and dancing to honor the cultures of the Middle East.

“I’m completely driven to talk about people’s humanity more than ever,” Webb said. “I want to help bring an end to this carnage.”

“From an Afghan Prayer Rug”

Allah, Lord of Islam,

Purveyor of Peace,

carry us through

ghosted twin towers

ashes of anguished

flesh

ruptured innocence

horror of holies

grief of fathers…

fly us beyond

misguided jihad,

profanation of the few

on the many

We beseech you…

let not

this unspeakable

transgression

bring the immutable

stain of

napalm

to this hearth-woven

carpet

where sat our glowing children

whose eyes welled

with love

watching the mothers

keep time

(tasseled ankle, wrist…

step, circle, clap,

laugh)

to the ancient

friendship dance

of the hill-people

– Loraine Webb


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