Public Opening: January 12th, 6pm-9pm

Exhibit open through January 28th, 2017

Hours Weds – Sat 12-6pm and by appointment

Artist Walk and Talk to the hillside January 14th

Yoga and meditation on January 25th

Music and guided meditation on January 26, choose from 3 times

The Peace Chamber is a conceptual art installation where the gallery itself becomes the art. The work revisits the meaning and message behind The Crosses of Lafayette. The installation is a multi-layered experience created with cut paper, reflective surfaces, video and computer altered photography. 

Created by architect and artist Lara Dutto, the space invites you to remember, reflect, and begin again.

The Crosses of Lafayette, a grassroots protest and living memorial begun in 2003, has had its well-publicized controversies. But regardless of one’s political or religious affiliation, or how you may feel about its presence in Lafayette, the hill has evolved into a true peace memorial, internationally recognized yet deeply rooted here in the golden grasses and rolling hills of the East Bay. The founders, resilient yet getting on in years, continue to climb the hill monthly to battle the weeds, and to repair rotten and fallen crosses. The sign is periodically updated by a single volunteer with a shocking number representing the body count from the Iraq and Afghan wars (still underway). The hillside has become a non-political, and multi-faith place of healing, where gold star moms pay tribute to lost children, a place for annual community vigils, poetry readings and drum circles.  Travelers on Bart and Highway 24 are confronted daily with the conspicuous reminder of the tragic costs of war.

The hill has been inspiration to countless photographers, fine artists and filmmakers; this work continues that tradition.

The Peace Chamber: The Crosses of Lafayette, Re-Counted begins with a 20’ wide mural of the hillside where – through Photoshop and traditional collage methods – the number of crosses and other religious symbols have been multiplied to represent a more accurate count of troops lost in combat since the onset of the Iraq War. (7000, while the number of crosses on the actual hill is less than 2000)  In addition, the space is enclosed and swathed in over 500 paper crosses and laser cut mirrors creating an infinity effect representing the incalculable civilian losses.  An audio-video component completes the installation which is inescapably interactive. Upon entering, the viewer is immediately part of the story. Peace, indeed, begins by looking in the mirror.


This work is dedicated to the families who have lost loved ones or seen them hurt as a result of the conflict in Iraq, Afghanistan and the ongoing War on Terror.  I know nothing of nor do I try to do justice to the depth of that sorrow.


The inspiration comes from a Place in my community, a remarkable grassroots memorial. But mostly it comes from the people, the Founders that installed the first crosses and continue against all odds and for over a decade now to shout a message of peace from the top of a hillside in my home town.

Artist Statement by Lara Dutto

We artists are constantly observing the world around us looking for moments in the built environment that prompt a creative response.

I drive by the somber white Crosses on the hill every day, sometimes forgetting to notice.  Recently I observed that Crosses were getting thinned out as part of the maintenance efforts.  But the number on the sign is still rising.

I wondered what the hill would look like with the accurate number of crosses and religious symbols.

At first I thought this project was going to be all about numbers. I set out to represent the statistic accurately and counting was part of my early process. 

I wanted all 7022 U.S. Soldiers lost to have their own place on that hill.  The design problem of how to represent the staggering amount of loss only became clear when I tried to represent the civilian casualties, a number that ranges from 150,000-600,000 depending on your source. Then, there are other intangibles such as the 30% of returning soldiers that are diagnosed with mental illness or the 20 veterans a day that commit suicide.

It wasn’t long into this process before I realized it would be impossible to be exact.  This ambiguity is similar to the facts and figures one finds when researching the War on Terror.  There doesn’t seem to be clear answers, nor is there a beginning or an end.

So, I introduced reflective surfaces to multiply the crosses exponentially but the viewer has to look hard at times, and the experience depends on one’s perspective.

I worked on this project on and off for 5 months.  Somehow along the way, I noticed the crosses did more than accumulate.  They were changing shape, dancing, casting shadows……reflecting light.  I did not intend to make something beautiful, I intended to retell the story of the hillside, turn it inside out, upside down and backwards so that people would look at it again.

So why an installation? A painting, of which I created a few, was not sufficient.  Photography or video was not enough. By definition, an Installation is the placement of objects in a space whereby the space itself becomes the art.

With this medium I have come the closest I ever have to blending my practices of art and architecture.  In collaboration with Jennifer Perlmutter and all those along the way that helped me, I have attempted to create a sacred space.  A place for our community to keep the conversation going.

Special thanks to:

Diane Winkler (video footage), Bill Quinn (carpentry), Deanna Connor at Lafayette Glass, (materials and labor), Kevin Granthem at Tap Plastics, Pleasant Hill, (materials), Elodie Busson (Photoshop assistance), Jeniifer Sampou Hensley, (sewing lesson and moral support) Jeff Heaton, The Clark Family and The Crosses Advisory Council: Margli Auclair, Susan Dannenfelser, Bob Hanson, Lynn MacMicheal, Bob Hansen, Kay James, Fred Norman, Baika Pratt, Carol Reif, Rick Sterling, Janet Thomas, Howard Weamer

Grant support from: Art4Moore, Jane Zuercher, Mulvaney Family, The Mount Diablo Peace and Justice Center

With Dutto’s installation, we have the honor of presenting artist Binh Danh’s Portraits on a Hillside.

Collaborating with curator Carol Reif, Danh and Reif created the 2014 exhibition The Crosses of Lafayette: A Protest Against Forgetting. The exhibition changes as it travels. Portraits on a Hillside is a re-focus of Danh’s work.

The Crosses of Lafayette: A Protest Against Forgetting

Known for his alternative photographic processes, Danh explores photography’s relationship to memory and landscape with his multiyear documentation of the crosses of Lafayette. Portraits on a Hillside are digital prints from daguerreotypes, photography’s first practical process.

Raised in the Bay Area, Binh Danh has emerged as an artist of national importance. His work is in the collections of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, The Philadelphia Museum of Art, the deYoung Museum, the National Gallery of Art, the George Eastman Museum, among many others. Danh is represented by Haines Gallery (San Francisco) and Lisa Sette Gallery (Phoenix). He lives and works in Tempe and teaches photography at Arizona State University.

Artist Binh Danh

Artist Binh Danh

During the month of January while the installation is up, the gallery will host concerts, non-denominational meditations, a speaker series and poetry readings.  The gallery will offer programming and the viewing of the artwork free of charge with the goal of promoting peace, community dialogue and individual reflection through art.

The public opening and exhibition hours will begin January 12th with press access on the 5th and 6th. Small groups will be taken in turn and throughout the month for programs and special speakers. If you are interested in scheduling a visit for your group, please call us now. 925-284-1485.

About the Artist

Lara Dutto is principal of Laraarchitecture, a multi-disciplined creative practice based in the San Francisco East Bay. Her work is comprised of community placemaking projects, residential and commercial architecture and a practice of fine art that explores materials, space and meaning.

Her work has been published in Sunset Magazine, San Francisco Chronicle, Diablo Magazine, and Atomic Ranch. Her paintings have been shown at the Richmond Art Center and East Bay Open Studios.

Lara currently lives in Orinda, where she and her husband raise three children.  Lara’s history with peace activism goes back to 2006 when she launched  Project Farasha, an art exchange program between Iraqi and Bay Area children. The project provided a platform for age appropriate civic action, generating over 800 pieces of artwork, four murals and over $75,000 in funding for medical aid and humanitarian projects for Iraqi refugees. Two of the murals traveled to Egypt as part of an exhibition sponsored by UNESCO’s Decade of Peace.

Lara drives past The Crosses of Lafayette on a daily basis and was prompted into creative action upon realizing that they faced an unsure future.  She is currently working with the Crosses Advisory Council in an architectural capacity to help the group visualize a future for a permanent memorial and to ensure the legacy of the crosses and its message is protected. More from the artist here: