It's been 15 years since the terrorist attacks were carried out in the New York City. The tragic events that resulted in 2,996 deaths affected every American in some way or another and sent the country into massive panic. Many artists decided to respond to the attacks, capturing in these 9/11 art pieces the variety of responses they have both felt and witnessed in the aftermath of the attacks. Confronting the tragedy directly, without any sugar-coating, these artworks contributed to the nation moving forward and regaining emotional control over the situation. Additionally, these pieces recorded a plethora of responses to these events. The September 11 art pieces are diverse, ranging from depictions of personals experiences to artworks paying homage to the experiences of others, or lives that have been lost.
In honor of the 15th anniversary of 9/11, we have compiled a selection of artworks encompassing painting, photographs, sculptures and installations inspired by these tragic events.
Featured image: Tribute in Light, via nbcnews.com
The famous cartoonist Art Spiegelman made a work of comics entitled In the Shadow of No Towers as a reaction to the September 11 attacks. Originally featured serially in the German newspaper Die Zeit between 2002 and 2004, it was later published as an oversized board book along with early American comic strips. Spiegelman himself stated that the comic served as a way for him to overcome the post-traumatic stress disorder he suffered after the attacks. Additionally, the comic contains many references to Spiegelman’s famous work Maus. The New York Times has listed the publication as one of the 100 Notable Books of 2004. It has also served as an inspiration for a symphony by Mohammed Fairouz.
Featured image: Art Spiegelman - In the Shadow of No Towers, via sequart.org
Banksy’s street art tribute in Manhattan’s Tribeca neighborhood depicting Twin Towers with a flower placed instead of an explosion is a piece that many described as simplistic and cliché, or at least an underdeveloped idea for a potentially more sophisticated piece. Aware that many fellow street artists simply dislike him and his work, maybe he tried to explore if there are some lines that even NYC graffiti writers wouldn’t cross, considering that many 9/11 memorials went untouched for years. Nevertheless, the artwork still attracts a lot of crowd. Crouching to take the best photo of this miniature piece, these visitors look as if they’re praying. Maybe that was the whole point.
Featured image: Banksy's Tribute to 911, via lauajul.dk
The 2001 piece Tree of Blood by the American artist Bruce Brooks directly refers to the horrors of 9/11. As the artist explained herself, she was already working on this piece before the attacks, as part of the series that was “tree” orientated following her interests in Bonsai, Newaki and trees in general. Yet, after the attack, her main colors turned to blood, red and white, and the blue color appeared with churning and turbulence combined with her shock. Just like Goya’s The Third of May, the imagery is connected to the horror, but the formal power of the painting continues lives on today.
Featured image: Bruce Brooks - Tree Of Blood, via fineartamerica.com
The Georgian-Russian painter, sculptor, and architect Zurab Tsereteli created a unique piece of public art installed at The Peninsula at Bayonne Harbor in 2006 as a gift from Vladimir Putin and the Russian people. Entitled To the Struggle Against World Terrorism, but also known as Tear of Grief and the Tear Drop Memorial, the sculpture is 10-story high and made of steel and bronze, featuring a split with a large nickel teardrop. Bearing granite name plates, this monument stands in the memory of those who lost their lives in these attacks. Reactions from the critics and public have been mixed.
Featured image: Zurab Tsereteli – Monument to the Struggle Against World Terrorism, via plazalondon.wordpress.com
The piece After 9/11 by the New York based artist Miya Ando presented to Britain as a lasting symbol of peace is made from mangled metal recovered from the wreckage of Ground Zero. Contributing to the significance of the piece, a New York judge had to sign a special agreement to release the metal, since it was still considered court evidence in any case relating to 2001 attacks. Yet, it was on public display for only 28 days before it was moved in a warehouse in Ruislip. The sculpture was unveiled for the second time in London in 2015, following a five-year journey to honor the promise to New York to permanently and prominently display their gift.
Featured image: Miya Ando – After 911, via bgphotos.photoshelter.com
The American painter and sculptor Eric Fischl created a sculpture entitled Tumbling Woman commemorating the victims of September 11, particularly the people who chose to jump from the World Trade Center. Using a single figure to raise attention to the human dimension of this attack, the artist intended it to be a “healing object” for mourners of this loss. The motif of the vulnerability of the human body that Fischl used is especially significant in this context. There is also a poem by Fischl inscribed on a plaque near the piece: “We watched, disbelieving and helpless, on that savage day. People we love began falling, helpless and in disbelief”.
Featured image: Eric Fischl – Tumbling Woman, via ericfischl.com
The artwork Peace Quilt by the famous artist Faith Ringgold known for combining painting, quilted fabric, and storytelling, was created in collaboration with New York City students from ethnically diverse communities aged between 8 and 19. Entitled Post-9/11 Peace Making Initiative, the project with students was meant to diffuse intergroup tensions and prevent intergroup conflicts. Exhibited in the Metropolitan Museum of Art between 2011 and 2012, this piece emphasizes the importance of respect, understanding, and communication across cultures and religions. It is comprised of three 72-by-50 inch panels, each with 12 squares on the theme of peace. A selection of student’s drawings and writing on their experiences was published in the book What Will YOU Do For Piece? Impact of 9/11 on New York City Youth, and Faith Ringgold was commissioned by InterRelations Collaborative to design the quilt based on the book.
Featured image: Faith Ringgold and Grace Matthews – Peace Quilt, via fordhamobserver.com
Gregory Hilton’s WTC/Mosque Series #1345 is a heat transfer piece on a wooden panel. As the artist described himself, he was watching television in his Chambers Street loft when he heard what sounded like a “freight train loaded with dynamite, going 100 miles an hour, hitting a brick wall and blowing up”. Reflecting his memory of the event, the image looks like the static on TV. The artistic process itself that involved burning onto wood reflects the way disturbing imagery and memories tend to stay with people forever.
Featured image: Gregory Hilton – WTC Mosque Series #1345, via huffingtonpost.com
The sculpture Kiss by the Turkish artist Serhat Tanyolacar presents two jubbahs, traditional Islamic garments, shaped into two kissing figures. This image is supposed to remind us not to let fear spark prejudices against entire cultures because of the heinous actions caused by few. As the artist explained, the piece investigates possible dialogues between the American Muslim community and the general American public. He aimed to create some type of positive, social, public awareness to make people think. The sculpture is an homage to Rodin’s Kiss from The Gates of Hell depicting the 13th-century Italian noblewoman who fell in love with her husband Giovanni Malatesta’s younger brother Paolo.
Featured image: Serhat Tanyolacar - Kiss, via pencils.com
The artist Robert Selwyn had one of the World Trade Center studios and painted the Towers immediately after the attack. Simply entitled 911, the painting is a close-up of one of the blasts and is created in an attempt to reach some sort of acceptance of the tragedy. The actual tower is in contrast to the open sky surrounding it, and the lack of color reflects the overall darkness of that day. The painting almost looks like a photograph, and the complex issue in question was directly confronted and depicted in a rather simple way.
Featured image: Robert Selwyn – 911, via filmdecadesspring2016.wordpress.com. All images used for illustrative purposes only.