Tuesday, September 11, 2007
Days like today come and go. Some are good; some are not. No American who was alive and aware on September 11th, 2001 will ever be able to spend a September 11th of any other year without some thought, reflection, and most probably some tears. And, unfortunately, the events since then have not been very healing for us.
On the morning of September 12th, 2001 I was standing in front of my kitchen TV, which, remarkably, was turned on. I say 'remarkably' because my TV is never on in the daytime, but I couldn't pull myself away from it. A lot of things were swirling around in my mind; one of them was, "how can those broadcasters sit there and talk about this without weeping?" I remembered vividly when Walter Cronkite announced the death of President Kennedy, showing his grief and despair clearly for the world to see. That seemed so much more human, more natural than the almost excited airs of the broadcasters after September 11th. And I thought, "it's because we have lost our soft hearts that things like this can and do happen." We have become so tough. Our reaction even then was, "how can we be even tougher than those who have done this to us?"
The next thing I thought then was, "what can I do?" After all, I am not a politician, I am an artist. So I realized I needed to react to this horror by making some art. I went to my studio and, with tears running down my face, I painted the painting above - which is unlike anything I had ever done, or have done since. I let the paint weep onto the paper.
Evidently others had the same thought - if you are an artist, you must respond with the tools of your trade. Monique Lehman, a tapestry artist in California, sent out a request for tapestries to commemorate the day in a small size, which would all be put together as one large Memorial Tapestry. So I used a part of the painting I had done on September 12th, and wove it into a 10"x10" tapestry to be a part of this project. One of the things I like most about it is that is is somewhat chaotic - which was very much how those days following September 11th felt to me. I could no longer maintain the illusion that I - or anyone else 'down here'- was in control. The Memorial Tapestry has been exhibited often, and in worldwide venues, since then.
It was healing to do the painting and the small tapestry. But I was still in grief and in shock; even more so when our president decided to add more violence, grief, and horror to the world as a response. I could hardly create. Then I went to the Botanical Garden in Denver with my son. I took lots and lots of photos of beautiful plants. But the one which struck me the most wasn't even a formal part of the gardens. It was a small desert succulent that was growing on it's own on one of the pathways. In spite of not being in the formally cared for and watered part of the garden, in spite of being on a pathway; it was not only surviving, but thriving. It was beautiful; it was a surviver. I determined that I would be like that plant. Even if all the governments of the world, my own included, did not give me the support and healing I needed, I would not only survive; I would thrive. And I would keep and nourish my own soft heart and, if I could, the soft hearts of others. I would use my art, my tools, to do this. So I took the photo of that tiny (about 1 1/2") plant and blew it up and wove it into a tapestry. I used the best materials I have ever used - I splurged on silk, and it glows when you see it in 'real life' (and it does seem to have life.) The weaving of this tapestry helped heal me. I came out of my grief. The tapestry is called "Emergence."
"Artists have a special role to play in the global struggle for peace. At their best, artists speak not only to people; they speak for them. Art is a weapon against ignorance and hatred and an agent of public awareness... Art opens new doors for learning, understanding, and peace among peoples and nations." Kofi Annan, UN Secretary General