Ana Tzarev's Peace water lily, Beijing.
Since 2012, I have committed to an ambitious, challenging, and incredibly rewarding endeavor, the crux of my career as an artist: I wish to fill all corners of the world with flowers, making a beautiful bouquet to be shared by every nation. This project is called the Love & Peace Campaign.
I began by sculpting large poppies out of fiberglass and planting them in public spaces around the globe, from England and Italy to Singapore and China. In January of this year, I introduced my first water lily sculpture to the world, premiering in Beijing at the Today Art Museum. These flowers, I hope, will give people the world over common ground for conversation, offering sanctuary from life's chaos.
I am blessed to have found support for the Campaign in some remarkable individuals. Peking University's Professor Peng Feng and Kathie Bolognese of the US National Committee for UN Women, for instance, have been invaluable partners in carrying the vision of Love & Peace into public view. Without the aid and faith of others, this dream could never be realized.
There are so many bright spirits who tirelessly pursue the promise of a better world for all. Today, few shine brighter than His Holiness Pope Francis, whose efforts to create a more inclusive and loving Church have echoed beyond the Catholic community - the world at large has been left better for it.
His Holiness recently stated, "...We are called to give witness with joy to this message: the gospel of life, the gospel of light, of hope and of love, because the message of Jesus is this: life, light, hope, love." The Love & Peace Campaign was born of this spirit, an offering of caritas to open hearts.
I was moved by His Holiness' words, and wrote him the following letter, which I now share with you:
My name is Ana Tzarev, and I am an artist who has been deeply touched and moved by your words. We share the same age - I was born in Croatia in 1937 - as well as the same belief: that each person has a responsibility to leave the world a better place than they found it, no matter how big or small our contribution may be.
Your Holiness, you and I have unfortunately seen the opposite for much of our lives: we have seen leaders who have had the power to do immense good instead lie and steal from those who had little; we have seen too many wars fought, and lost too many husbands, sons, mothers, and daughters along with them; we have seen flags, boundaries, and perhaps most sadly, religions, divide us and convince us we are all different, somehow. This is why your words at St Peter's Square touched me deeply. They are so true, and so deeply needed today.
Several years ago I started the Love & Peace Campaign. I wanted to use my art to bring people together. So I sculpted two three-and-a-half metre flowers and sent them around the world. I hoped to remind people of the beauty of the world we share, to show them that we all have the ability to appreciate the simple wonder of a flower. I wanted each viewer to remember that regardless of our colour, country, or creed, we all speak the same language of love, peace, and beauty. My flowers have travelled to London, Prague, Singapore, Beijing, Venice, and New York.
The response to my flowers has been uplifting and inspiring. People post photos on our website, where they stand in front of the sculpture and are smiling, happy, and together. It is a wonderful feeling to know that these flowers helped people find a reason to pause, smile, and be present in that moment. These flowers don't change the world, of course, but they can change a day. They have not brought world peace, but they have brought a lot of smiles. It is some of the work I am most proud of...
Your Holiness, by raising your voice, you have inspired me to lift my own... I pray we are one day able to work together to share the love and help inspire the peace our world so desperately needs - and deserves.
With sincerest admiration,