Volume 81, Number 15 | September 8 - 14, 2011
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

Looking back at 9/11 • A special Villager supplement

Out of the Ashes

A painting by Bryan Crow done on the 48th floor of the new Seven W.T.C.

Artists bear witness to the rebirth of W.T.C. site

By Gerard Flynn

On the 48th floor of Seven World Trade Center, a group of artists have taken on the daunting challenge of documenting the reconstruction of Ground Zero in its many forms and through many different media since the 52-story building was completed in 2006.

The title of Tribeca artist Todd Stone’s exhibition here is “Witness: Downtown Rising,” and that theme largely describes what everyone up here on 48 — myself included — is doing: documenting renewal in a place where thousands lost their lives exactly 10 years ago.

We have 10,000 square feet here. Developer Larry Silverstein has given it to the artists until the space is rented.

Among the works on display are oil paintings by Diana Horowitz, whose connection to the site goes back to 1985.

As a Brooklyn College graduate student, Horowitz spent many hours on the North Tower’s 107th-floor observation deck, painting landscapes of New York City’s many splendid vistas.

But she said, trying to document the reconstruction process going on 48 floors below has been challenging due to the work’s rapid pace. (One World Trade itself has risen to dizzying heights itself in just the year that I have been here doing my acrylic paintings.)

Still, Horowitz has managed to create not just astonishing art, but also remarkably to evoke a quiet, almost eternal, mood in her work — ironic considering how busy and noisy it is down on the site.

“A lot of people make comments about how quiet my paintings are,” she said. “It’s not something that I set out to do. It just comes out.”

Horowitz, now a professor of art at her alma mater, may have had a near miss on 9/11. Had she not been jetlagged from a recent trip to Italy, she might have found herself back up on the observation deck in the midst of the horror of a day that she recalls vividly.

Today still living in Brooklyn, she remembers the stench of the smoke that blew in from site of the attack, “flooding” her back garden with papers from Cantor Fitzgerald, the investment bank on the 101st to 104th floors, which lost 658 employees.

Her paintings, she said, are largely about the feeling of a common bond, as well as the action below in the 16 acres surrounding us every day: process.

“I just like the process of painting, which is a very modern idea,” she said. “I am trying to record my process as some kind of distillation of what I see and experience.”

Horowitz works from life — reveling in the ever-changing light on the site — rather than photos.

A week ago, Horowitz and I sat and talked by the windows on 48, our backs to the Memorial Pools.

“When I first came here several years ago, nothing was happening,” she said.

She gazed out over the site where today there is so much activity.

“Now my eyes have moved down,” she said, “and I see all of this.”

 

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