Art Remembering 9/11

September 11th 2001, The Day that Changed America

I, along with many other artists, have been asked to create a piece of art commemorating the events of September 11th, 2001.  I wasn’t sure at first if I would be able get a piece finished on time, and I’m still not sure it will be finished… but I started it yesterday.

In this piece I wanted to express the changes I’ve seen in America since the September 11th terrorist attacks.  I’ve tried to explain these changes to my kids, and to others who were just too young to really remember, but always, I struggle for words.

 

America changed forever that day

Its hard to express, but I’m sure others who lived through it know what I mean.  On September 10th, 2011 we woke up to the America we has all known.  The America who hadn’t had war on their own soil since the Civil War.  The America who looked at the world with optimism.  The America who was proud of who they were and what they stood for.  The America who was pretty sure that the American dream was still something envied by those in other countries, and something still obtainable to those willing to work for it.

Before the attacks, America was Naive

America, like all other nations, has its dark periods of history.  It has its pages that it would rather not read aloud to anyone… its done things as a nation that it would rather everyone would just forget.

Despite that though, America has always striven to be better.  We declared our belief that all men were created equal while we still owned slaves, but eventually we tried to live up to that declaration by turning away from slavery, and later through the civil rights movement.  We haven’t been perfect, not by any stretch of the imagination, but we did have ideals that we reached for, and those ideals were commendable.

Before 9/11, the average American citizen, at least those who were born after 1960, were much like children in our naivety.  While we couldn’t really claim complete ignorance, or innocence, we were aware that our country had once had slaves, we were aware of the atrocities that our nation had committed against the indigenous people of this land, but that was all a long time ago, and the majority of us saw this country as a good place, a place to be proud of.

The evils of the past and the dangers of the world around us weren’t completely unknown to us, but they were also not in the forefront of our minds.  Most of us looked forward to a bright future, and saw the world as a generally friendly place, and other nations as places we would like to visit some day.

 

September 11th, Shocked us into Reality

All of that changed on September 11th.  At first we were shocked, not understanding why anyone would want to do such a horrible thing, and figuring it was the work of a few madmen.  News coverage showing people on the other side of the world cheering and dancing at the news of the attacks made us realize though, that there were large populations of people who hated us… and we wondered why.

I won’t get into all the reasons for the hatred, or try to tell you if any part of it was justified or not.  I won’t hash out all the details of who did and who said what.  I won’t drag our own nations actions out to be scrutinized, nor will I hold up some other nation and tell you to hate them.

What I will say, is that after the shock of 9/11 wore off, America was a different place.  There was an initial surge of national pride, and even an initial surge of religious sentiment.  But when those things wore off… the American public had, in a very real way, had our eyes opened, lost our innocence, and became tired and old in spirit.

 

Putting it all in a Painting

Of course, I can explain all that in words, but it takes a long time, and as the cliche says, “A picture speaks a thousand words.”

So I had to find a way to put the experience, the shock, and the instant loss of childish innocence into a painting.

 

Now, the painting isn’t finished yet, but most of the details have been sketched.

 

September 11 attacks, september 11 artwork, 9/11 art
The little girl and the old woman both represent the American public in general… you know, the average American… the left is before 9/11… the little girl is innocent, or at least naive and unaware of the evil in the world and the evil done by her own country… she may be vaguely aware of dangers from without or wrongs of the past… but they aren’t in her mind. She holds the balloon (which if you look closely is the world) by a string… she is happy and the world seems to be a friendly, happy place…
Then across the middle of the canvas is the event, the one day, that changed everything…
Then we see her after that day, suddenly she is old, aware of the dangers around her and of the way she is seen by many others in the world… no longer holding the world by a string… it is floating nearby, and no longer looks friendly or happy.
Also, she is now more fearful, she has fear not only of the world at large, but of fellow Americans… fear and hostility dominate… in response to the fear and hostility, she has armed herself (she’s holding a handgun).