Clevelanders come together to celebrate peace and lives of John Jackson and Masumi Hayashi

Submitted by Norm Roulet on Fri, 08/25/2006 - 00:04.

During a gathering tonight of 100s of Clevelanders, promoting peace and honoring the lives of artists John Jackson and Masumi Hayashi, at the West Clifton Park and labyrinth at W. 65th Street and W. Clinton Avenue, now dedicated in the artists' honor, the heavens shed tears in a light, cleansing rain... followed by scores of uplifting tributes to the artists and other lost lives, numerous musical selections, the play of dozens of innocent children, in a coming together of good souls with love in their hearts.

Living on Clifton, just down from this park, I celebrate this addition to my neighborhood and the community - it is in many ways the most perfect park in Cleveland. Featuring an emotionally charged sculpture by John Jackson and a spiritually stimulating labyrinth, all dotted with small gardens, this is an understated, simple place to which I will always enjoy coming, alone or with friends or family, to connect with my place on Earth. But I do not find peace here, in this toxic community.

Masumi's son spoke at the gathering, and he showed remarkable control. He said Masumi was all about transformation, and that we must learn from her example and overcome the grief we feel from her loss... focus on transformation. Others who spoke brought our minds to thoughts of bridging the east and west sides of town and gun control... others spoke of supporting the police and politicians and told us to not abandon our leadership or this part of town. Yet, in the background, NEO reality lives on.

I greatly respected the sincerity of the feelings shared, and appreciated the intent of the gathering very much, but I was only comforted by John's wonderful sculpture, the harmony of the garden, watching the truly spiritual in personal reflection, and seeing children in innocent joy. Knowing this neighborhood as I do, I feel too much pain watching the children playing in the dirt of the garden and neighborhood knowing they are being lead poisoned... probably half the children in the neighborhood are harmed by lead poisoning and so are dying their own silent deaths, although we only mourn the loud deaths of few.

That two great artists were shot to death last week is beyond sad, but it breaks my heart that dozens of children were being poisoned right before the eyes of all these celebrants for peace, who largely live in disregard for the realities of the greatest dangers in our community. I share their pursuit for peace and love, but I'm angry how shallow is our vision of what is transformation, and murder. While I live in and love Ohio City, and am a champion of historic preservation and the core city, I know our community is toxic and I don't allow my children to play in the dirt in my own yard or anywhere else around the city that I don't know well. I bathed my son the second we returned home from the park.

Until this community comes together for the well being of all our children, we haven't properly defined where transformation must begin, although Masumi did. While every mainstream media outlet covered the gathering tonight, and the murder of Masumi and John has been heavily documented by the "press", I don't find any sincerity or authenticity in any of the mainstream coverage... just strangers covering strange news... spin-doctoring in preparation for tax levying. There is no sincerity in any of that, and I don't believe the deaths of Masumi and John will change anything about how our leaders approach fine art or artists here.

Douglas Max Utter's article in this week's Free Times, in remembrance of Masumi and John, has been the exclusive sincere reflection in NEO-media on those artists lives, and Scene has been the only media outlet in my memory to deal honestly with lead poisoning. It is important we recognize the harm the mainstream media causes this community in their interpretation of what is crisis, and transformation. The mainstream media and leaders of NEO show far more understanding of the value of the arts then of stopping pollution and dealing with the lead poisoning crisis here - this they cover-up without apology or attempt for redemption (a rally a few months ago to spread awareness of the lead cirisis, organized by GCLAC and held in Public Square and Mall C, didn't get covered by print, radio or television).

The best person to lok to for understanding of this "incongruity between appearance and reality in the American experience" is Masumi Hayashi, who leaves us with 100s of important messages on this through her art work... and that is a real power of powerful art. But, do not take the word of others in finding the messages in her work, but rather read her words and look to her images directly. She takes her viewers to places they could and would never go themselves - internment camps and prisons... temples and brownfields - she shows us the real horrors of our place, presented with passion and clarity... with completeness and authenticity few others have ever captured so well, in any medium of communication.


© Masumi Hayashi

EPA Superfund Site, Big D Campground, Ashtabula, Ohio. Panoramic Photo Collage with Kodak type C prints, 1990. Size: 32" x 22". Artist: Masumi Hayashi

From Masumi's artist statement on her Masumi Museum website:

Masumi Hayashi's panoramic photo collages explore the incongruity between appearance and reality in the American experience. She does this by creating photographs of contested sites: abandoned prisons, post-industrial landscapes, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Superfund Sites, and the remains of American concentration camps. Yet, the resulting panoramic photo collages exhibit tremendous beauty, laced with both precise detail and abstraction. Without overt or critical commentary, they explore both the surface and the reality behind such places, whether they be panoramic landscapes or haunting interiors.

This is especially the case with Hayashi's series on EPA Superfund Sites, which reminds us that another reality lurks literally beneath the surface. When she first encountered these locations, Hayashi was surprised by what she found: "The site looks everyday: bucolic, pristine and pretty. The irony is that you cannot see the pollution."


My heart is broken

I think I knew John from Chagrin Falls - not sure if this is the same one ... but almost positive

I can be emailed at

bpeter [at] alltel [dot] net

I have stories about John and I in school (again, if this is the same John Jackson)

I hope it's not the same John Jackson

Brian, I Googled away on John Jackson and Chagrin Falls and there were not any matches so I don't know. I hope the John Jackson killed was not your childhood friend, but I'm sure we'll find out soon enough. What saddens me is that the John Jackson who I knew has died and now barely exists on-line - the fact it is hard to know anything about him, or know his work better. We as a community should get to know our people and remember them better. I'm working on that, and hope I can help others know John Jackson the artist better in the process. I'll email you when I determine if John went to school in Chagrin Falls.

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Norm, Thanks

Now I'm almost positive he is the same one (because of the posting above yours).

One day I will write a story of John and my time together in Chagrin Falls art room. He was a very quiet kid back then, and hard to know, but his talent was pure genius and I knew it - though most did not understand his abstract leaning.

John Jackson

John was born in Illinois, but grew up in Chagrin Falls and attended CIA.  He was 51 years old.

Then I'm correct

I knew John very well back then, he and I spent much time together. I was an artist that won many awards too, as he did. His work and mine were almost always side by side in several art shows in the Chagrin Falls area.

I'm devastated that now I know it was him in this story. Actually, I could tell by the style of the work.

Time to get back to your art

Well, Brian, your myspace pages are very creative so you obviously mever lost the inspiration you and John shared... time ot carry on with your expressions in your own ways. I look forward to seeing your future work. You may show.

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My Tribute to an Old Friend

This is the link

I hope you don't mind me posting "The Real NEO" - I agree

The Real Neo

John, the real Neo
Painting his ugly genius
in Mrs. Luna's art room.
Smeared his muddy acrylic
bleeding alive encanvassed
The organism swelled
a dimensional door.
Walked in -
leather peels fell
off hard eyes
Then I saw -


and cried ...


A tribute to Cleveland Artist John Jackson by his friend Brian Hodgkinson

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