Using painting and music as performance Manuel Oliver drove home into our hearts the shock of youth lost to gunfire.
Friday afternoon, as part of the Woodstock Film Festival, Oliver stood with his wife, the filmmaker Patricia Oliver, before three wood panels leaning against the wall of the Longyear Building, just off the Village Green, and began by speaking of his son and his 16 schoolmates shot at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida with a semi-automatic rifle.
The artist’s tools were an array of colors in cans of spray paints, tape, a hammer, long stem flowers, a wooden guitar and two large photographic images, one of Jimi Hendrix, the other of his son’s eager and open face.
He began creating waves and lines of color, symbolic of music, painted a guitar, applied Jimi Hendrix on one edge of the ‘canvas’ and his son’s face on the other on the three large wood panels — all while Jimi Hendrix played over speakers to the gathered crowd.
At a point when the panels looked full, Manuel stopped and turned to the crowd.
He wanted us the hear the last sound his son heard before he died.
Taking the back end of the hammer, he swung hard into the panel and broke through. The loud crack broke the silence. He repeated this for every child who died that day.
I think every heart must have cracked each time.
Next he placed a long stem flower in each hole, for the child no longer living.
Continuing by tearing apart a guitar until it resembled a machine gun, while Jimi Hendrix played The National Anthem, Manuel then took a knee.
His son loved music and art and Manuel and Patricia Oliver want to remember their son and also convey the message that our lives must be lived fully in the time, and we must find ways to transcend tragedy. Their story and others are in the film Parkland Rising, brought to town by the Woodstock Film Festival, winner of the Audience Award for Best Documentary Feature.