The 9/11 Memorial & Museum is observing the 15th anniversary of the terror attacks with the inauguration of a new art gallery and a powerful special exhibition, “Rendering the Unthinkable: Artists Respond to 9/11.”
The 13 pieces in the new exhibit include the works of many local artists who were affected by the terrorist attack. Several, who lived nearby, incorporated ashes of the vaporized World Trade Center in their canvasses.
The show’s centerpiece is the heartbreaking, deeply moving bronze by Eric Fischl, “Tumbling Woman,” which was yanked out of Rockefeller Center when displayed there in 2002 following complaints by a New York Post columnist that the sculpture was somehow insensitive to the memory of those who had died.
At the exhibit’s media preview Thursday, Fischl confessed he was hurt by hostility that first greeted his representational monument to lost life. “I knew I needed to do something like the moment I witnessed,” of people falling out of buildings and to reflect the unmoored, “falling” feeling of a country enveloped in chaos and confusion following the violent, sudden loss of so many lives, said Fischl, who lives in Sag Harbor. “For those who jumped, it shows exactly how horrible the situation was: To choose one form of certain death over another form of certain death.”
It felt wrong to dwell on the vaporized buildings and architecture. “Three thousand people died! It was incumbent on me to remember the bodies and commemorate the spirit behind the bodies,” Fischl explained. The androgynous form has an outstretched hand — evocative Michelangelo’s painting of Adam’s reach on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel — which Fischl said he crafted in recognition of his own naïve hope that “someone would hold on to her” to prevent her inevitable descent.
Artist Christopher Saucedo, an associate professor of sculpture at Adelphi University, and spends his time between Rockaway Beach and New Orleans, has a dreamy blue and white triptych, “World Trade Center as a Cloud” in the show. His brother, Gregory Saucedo, a firefighter with FDNY Ladder Company 5 died while rescuing people in the north tower, One World Trade Center.
“I’m never happy to be here, but I would be disappointed if I wasn’t a part of this show,” said Saucedo. “The privilege of getting this work on the wall in this museum and others is I get to enlarge my brother’s memory and the memory of the event.”
Creating art out of chaos and grief is “empowering and allows me to take the reins of my family story. This event [9/11] is very personal but also universal,” said Saucedo, adding that he hopes the show will travel to other world capitals after its run in NYC.
Art helps people heal, acknowledged Saucedo: “A good day when as a nation we can have an aestheticized cultural event about this tragedy. It’s a sign our nation is in good health.”
Even so, “I miss my brother every day,” he said.