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Remembering The World Trade Center Tragedy Through Art

Meridith Martens

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September 8th, 2019 - 01:15 PM

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Remembering The World Trade Center Tragedy Through Art

Before the events of September 11, 2001, I enrolled in a class at UNC Greensboro to experiment with abstract techniques that I had not previously used. I was starting with a pouring technique when tragedy struck New York and Washington. The effect of the televised images on me was immediate and profound. The skeletal frames of the World Trade Center and the 'crying' traces of paint used in this technique brought my sorrow and empathy with the victims to the canvas.

This work, Twin Attack, is one of eight paintings I did in the days following. The towers stream tears as they slowly descend to the ground, dying monuments to the victims and the changes in society since.

In 2002 I was one of 68 artists chosen to contribute work to True Colors: Meditations on the American Spirit, an exhibition of 9/11 themed works organized by the Meridian International Center in Washington, DC. This was the painting I chose to present. Looking back on the piece today, I am struck by how much the United States was changed by the events of that day. In the short period after 9/11, our nation seemed to be so united in citizenship in response to this terrible event. Unfortunately, this did not last.

Behind our unified front, differences in opinion about how to cope with the national threat ultimately began the polarization that we struggle with today. It seems that now the world has split apart with countries, ideologies, and people pitted against one another. The dripping lines and crumbling forms of the towers no longer only represent the physical buildings themselves, but dissolution of brotherhood, kindness and reason in the US.

Art can communicate the depths of human experience - the pain, the horror, the helplessness. Art can also connect us and bridge divides in ways that words cannot. Maybe through art, our society can regain tolerance and understanding for the diversity from which we could draw so much strength.

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