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Remembrance art at the Chicago Fest for Beatles Fans

By Jude Southerland Kessler
Author of The John Lennon Series

Something is QUITE different this year at the Chicago Fest for Beatles Fans. The vision had changed: it's not simply about looking back and remembering or honoring the past; it's about transforming memories into art that endures forever.

The Beatles did that. When John sang, "Julia," when Paul crooned, "Let it Be," they were turning their childhood/teen angst into timeless lyrics, and melodies. And this year at the Chicago Fest, there is a host of writers, musicians, and artists who have woven bits and pieces of memory into lovely, new creations.

Foremost amongst those artisans present are Karen and Jim McCollum, gifted photographers, whose prints and whose new art book, The John Lennon Peace Wall: A Documentary, is stopping fans in their tracks. Taken at the John Lennon Peace Wall in Prague, their color images capture amazing graffiti - the reactions of international fans to John's crusade for caring coexistence.

Click here to see larger image
Artwork from Lennon Peace Wall: A Documentary

"We've visited the wall many times now," Karen stated, "and year after year, it changes. In fact, if you go on Monday and then return on Tuesday, some images have already disappeared...replaced by new artistic expressions built upon the old." She sighs. "The Beatles morphed. They kept changing to grow with and adapt to the generation around them. That's why they stayed so current and are so important now. And in Prague, the art keeps morphing, too. From day to day, it's never the same."

Karen and Jim who hail from Joliet, IL, visit the wall each year and digitially photograph the tiniest, most intimate images as well as the largest, broadest creations. "It's thrilling," Karen commented, "to display these creative images at festivals and to have young children glance at them and shout to their parents, 'Look, there's John Lennon!" I feel that we're doing something right by preserving these tributes to John in conceptual art."

Photographers Karen and Jim McCollum

John, once a student at Liverpool College of Art, would have loved the uninhibited expressions that Jim and Karen have found on the Prague Wall. Doves, warped hearts, open hands, haunted eyes peering from glasses - each matted print speaks volumes about Lennon's life and genius. And for patrons who just can't choose "the right" print to take home with them, the McCollum's offer the hardback book, filled with vivid and breathtaking color photos.

Karen will be on hand at the Fest all day Saturday and Sunday to talk about their work and to sign prints. I asked her why she has given so many years to this project...if she did it for art's sake or for John's sake, and she replied, "Both. Both. I remember being four years old and walking with my mother across the Sears parking lot. I was skipping a bit and singing, "I Want to Hold Your Hand." I guess The Beatles have always been part of me." Jim added, "When I was in high school, I had a band, and we sang Beatles songs." He chuckles. "We thought we were pretty good."

Well, their book and prints are indeed, "pretty good." In fact, lovely. If you can't attend the Fest this year, find the McCollum's artwork at And if you're driving out to the Hyatt O'Hare today or Sunday for the Fest for Beatles Fans, don't miss their work. It's a keeper.

Published August 11, 2012

This article is Copyright © 2012, The Author, and may not be reproduced on other web sites or in print, in whole or in part, without expressed permission

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