Monday, September 9, 2013

Tsosie Visits Ground Zero

I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when 9/11 happened.  I was living in a rural area in northern New Mexico off the highway leading to Los Alamos.  I had a small studio, a concrete block building with a cement floor.  It was the first actual studio I ever owned.  I didn't have a television.  Well, I had one, but it was in the closet.  I never cared much for tv, and anyway, the reception wasn't great where I was living.  So I heard about the trade center towers on the radio that I turned on every time that I went into the studio.  The announcer was detailing how terrified women were kicking off their high heeled shoes so they could run faster away from the collapsing towers.  What a powerful image. When I came home from work that evening I gathered up all my high heeled shoes and threw them on the studio floor and painted them.  The dark towers were in the background, dust and debris rising between them. I had never completed a painting so quickly.

"Vanished", acrylic on canvas, 2002, 20x20

I entered it into a juried show in Las Cruces and my husband and I drove there for the opening.  I didn't wear a name tag.  I wanted to be anonymous.  I wanted to watch the reactions of the viewers.  I got what I came for when a woman looked at the painting, read the title, clutched her throat and gasped. Then we went home.

Fast forward twelve years and I am going to another opening, this one in New York. My twelve year old grandson and his mother (my daughter) are going too.

Erica and Nicholas
I am there for the museums and the galleries, but he wants to see: Ripley's Believe it or Not; the Blue Man Group; the Empire State Building; the Statue of Liberty; and yes, the World Trade Center Memorial (I'm amazed that he knows about 9/11.)  Being a good grandmother, I accommodate most of his list, knowing I can see the museums and galleries after he leaves.   I skip the Empire State Building. I don't like heights.

I am unprepared for the World Trade Center experience.
We thread our way through long lines, several security checks, and then enter a large park with many people. Very quiet people.  There are two pools. a north and a south pool (the tower footprints?)  Water cascades over the sides and disappears into a black hole, just as the victims had.

South Pool, World Trade Center Memorial, 2013

In front of the south pool stands a group of uniformed Swiss firefighters, silently paying their respects to their fallen comrades.  In the background is a slanted museum building which will open in 2014.

Swiss firefighters    

 Growing in a special place within the park is the "Survivor Tree".  The tree had been near ground zero and was badly decimated by the falling debris.  A local nurseryman rescued it and nursed it back to health, only to have it fall victim to a vicious storm later on.  It survived a second time.  People line up to stroke it.

Daughter Kathy and The Survivor Tree
I'm not a particularly sentimental or patriotic person, but I am deeply moved by this experience. I think of the artist's mind, which understood metaphor so well; the respect the artist held for those who would view the work; the collaboration that occurred with the engineers and the builders.

Tsosie on Brooklyn Bridge; financial district in background

I came away with renewed appreciation for all of us who call ourselves artists and attempt to memorialize the the human experience, the spiritual aspects of our lives.  Painting is not dead and art is just as necessary as it always was and always will be.

New World Trade Center