Arts East got to travel by fibre optic and wire, south of the border to the other side of the continent. There, in southern California, was and is Gerald Zwers, a prolific artist who is probably the most therapeutic individual a person can ever hope to chat with. Zwers told us about his latest project—Better World Art. He is striving to create a global forum of artists, of every media/style imaginable, that share a common goal—to create with the purpose of benefitting others and the Earth as a whole.
~ Story by Michelle Brunet
Gerald Zwers can’t even remember the first time he started creating art. He does, however, remember an Easter morning when he was just four years old. He couldn’t find his Easter basket, so his mother told him drawing a picture might help. Zwers raced over to a cupboard that held his very own stash of regularly-used art supplies, where of course the basket was hiding.
Decades later, Zwers is still an inexhaustible artist, often working all through the night in his Ventura, California studio. But in 2008 his reason for creating paintings, sculptures, mixed media projects and lighted works drastically changed.
“Early on I would do all kinds of stuff. I did things that definitely ran to the dark side—just pretty much any weird thing that crossed my mind,” Zwers explains. “But something major happened—two events within the same month. It was a turning point in my life.”
During that poignant month, a loved one of Zwers had fallen victim to an extreme trauma. A couple weeks later, a stranger had approached Zwers and told him that something she had read in an interview of his profoundly changed her life.
“The trauma only took a few minutes and the interview only took a few minutes,” says Zwers. “These are relatively short events, but you could see from the smallest seed that the ripple effects expanded. You’ve got this moment of life and you can do something horrible with it, something great with it or nothing at all. I just thought I’m going to do my best to try and do good things with it. If I’m going to be planting seeds, I’d like them to grow into good things.”
From that moment on, Zwers was inspired to create works that would “grow into good things”. One such example is his Accomplishing Impossible Things series that he created for a local cancer centre. It depicts 10-foot tall silhouettes of individuals performing seemingly unattainable tasks, such as soaring through the sky or performing a yoga pose on top of a sliver of cliff. Zwers wanted these inspiring pieces showcased in the medical center to provide hope to those told their prognoses were dire.
Zwers also initiated the free art project after noticing that many people exiting the County of Ventura’s Superior Court Building looked miserable. He started painting gorgeous landscapes on small blocks of wood and leaving them outside the court building. This progressed to placing hundreds of miniature paintings in various public places and attaching a note stating, “this is meant for you to brighten your day”.
The largest of Zwers undertakings since his artistic epiphany came about in 2009 when he began reading about the Terracotta Army in China. Thousands of soldiers were constructed to be buried with Emperor Qin so that they would accompany him into the afterlife. Zwers was struck by the fact that the emperor chose to take mostly warriors with him into the next world. He thought about who he would want to have in a new world of his creation. Then it hit him—he would create the Golden Paladins.
Zwers has created over 1,000 clay sculptures finished with golden leaf. The paladins are organized into over 100 families each representing a noble cause. For example, one family is called The Protectors of the Small. “I read about this terrible thing happening to children in Brazil, and I thought in my perfect world there would be somebody that would step up and say, ‘You can’t do that!’” expresses Zwers. The Carriers of Burdens, The Lifters of Spirits, The Caretakers of Nature and The Senders of Peace are examples of other families.
The Golden Paladins have touched and inspired many individuals all over the world, from the bouncer that works at a nightclub near Zwers’ studio to Barbara Marx Hubbard (who Deepak Chopra calls “"the voice for conscious evolution of our time"). Zwers acknowledges that he is just one of many artists of all forms dedicating their creativity to noble causes. He says he is continuously inspired by the artists he meets who emulate the qualities of his paladins. “To be a technically-skilled artist, or to be an eloquent writer, those are good mechanical skills,” says Zwers. “But I think to me, the more important part becomes what are you going to say with those words or what are you going to do with that artistic ability?”
Connect with Gerald Zwers to become a part of this global artistic movement.www.BetterWorldArt.com