Peace and Salvation, Wall of Understanding

Title:  Peace and Salvation, Wall of Understanding

Site:  Locust and Orleans, Chicago (no longer extant)

Artist:  William Walker

Sponsors:  Chicago Mural Group

Year:  1970

Scale:  70 x 60 feet

Materials:  Oil paint on masonry

Information:  From the original report by William Walker
In the center of the wall is a continuous ribbon imprinted with the words Peace and Salvation. At the top, bottom, and sides of the ribbon are four hands reaching for one another. The hands, symbolic of various peoples, are trying to come together, but violent forces are keeping them apart.

Within the ribbon of Peace and Salvation are two heads symbolizing Death, which become victorious when hate, violence, and irrational thinking rule the world.

At the left and right inside the ribbon are representative figures who are working for neither peace nor salvation. The figures symbolize militants of both the political left and the right, as well as of the various races of mankind.

The guns above the ribbon represent the violence in today’s world. They also symbolize the realities of life that all people must admit to and try to deal with.

The four men standing on Earth are symbols of hope that all peoples, Asians, Africans, Europeans, and Indians, can eventually join together to achieve the peace and salvation that the wall stands for. Above the men is the white dove of peace.

At the base of the wall are figures representing the community: the Black Panther Party, Martin Luther King, Jr., John Stevens, Reverend Jesse Jackson, Malcolm X, and members of various youth groups in Chicago. These figures symbolize the need for unity among all Black people. As these figures march together, they become a symbol of hope.

As I give thought to the subject of peace and salvation, I am reminded of the fact that there are many schools of thought on this little planet which we inhabit. Language barriers, cultural differences, political and religions attitudes expressed by rich and poor, literate and illiterate, big nations blaming each other for their shortcomings, arguments and counterarguments, all of these things lead to ever-present confusion.

Hate and frustration seem to be setting in deeper and deeper, deep into the bones of man, causing him to deteriorate, and to hate his fellow man. So I asked the question, “Can there ever be peace and salvation?” Do the people of this century really want peace and salvation? If so, I would hope that we will try to find ways to bring it about.

I am not quite sure where all of this hate and confusion will lead; certainly it will lead to no good for the peoples of the world. Hence, I, as an individual, intend to live the sermons I preach, both verbally and through my painting. I strongly feel that living the sermon is far better than preaching it and never living it.

I will offer all that I can—and I will earnestly seek others who understand the importance of working toward peace and salvation so that we may join together to bring an end to hate and frustration. Peace and Salvation; Wall of Understanding is my initial offering. Through its symbolic messages, may it initiate the necessary actions in people of all races and religions in working together toward peace and salvation.

William Walker
September 30th, 1970