This Sunday marks the 15th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11. Nineteen militants associated with al-Qaeda hijacked four planes in the largest terrorist attack on U.S. soil, killing approximately 3,000 people and injuring an estimated 10,000. To honor the victims, the 9/11 Memorial Museum is hosting its first art exhibition: a reflection on the tragic events by a group of 13 artists all affected in different ways by the day’s events.
Titled "Rendering the Unthinkable: Artists Respond to 9/11," the exhibition features paintings, sculptures and video pieces among other mediums. Each artist involved in the show was impacted by 9/11 in some way, whether through the loss of a family member or from witnessing the direct aftermath of the attacks, Sarah Cascone reports for artnet News.
“Through the lens of art, we reflect on the raw emotion we all felt on that unforgettable Tuesday morning 15 years ago,” Alice Greenwald, the museum’s director, says in a statement. “Artists, like all of us, struggled to comprehend the unfathomable destruction and loss of innocent life. They responded the way they knew best—through their art.”
The pieces in the show are as varied as each artist’s experience. A video piece by Colleen Mulrenan MacFarlane focuses on her hands as she tries to scrub dirt and ash from a white uniform shirt that belongs to her father, a New York City firefighter, who spent days digging out Ground Zero. A painting by Christopher Saucedo is titled “World Trade Center as a Cloud” and depicts the Twin Towers rising into a clear blue sky. The artist's brothers Stephen and Gregory, New York City firefighters, responded to the call on 9/11. Gregory was killed when the North Tower fell and his body was never recovered. Saucedo has dedicated the painting to him, Maria Alvarez reports for Newsday.
Others draw on similar themes. One video installation by Blue Man Group members Chris Wink, Matt Goldman and Phil Stanton was inspired by scorched pieces of paper Stanton saw drifting past the window of his studio across the river in Brooklyn after the towers came down. Meanwhile, a new work by Gustavo Bonevardi also drew inspiration from flecks of ash and paper he saw wafting through the sky in the hours after, Ryan Sit and Ginger Adams Otis report for the New York Daily News.
“It was actually this strikingly beautiful image and it’s sort of haunting to see this beauty in contrast to the nightmare that is going on of the buildings collapsing,” Bonevardi, who also designed the annual “Tribute in Light” anniversary installation, tells Sit and Otis.
"Rendering the Unthinkable: Artists Respond to 9/11" is on display at the 9/11 Memorial Museum from September 12, 2016 through January 2017.