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Artists Paint a Picture of Ground Zero Ten Years Later

By Tom Liddy | September 6, 2011 2:19pm
Artist Bryan Crow's 9/11 remembrance project on Sept. 4, 2011.  Crow was a resident artist at 7 World Trade Center ahead of the 10th Anniversary of 9/11.
Artist Bryan Crow's 9/11 remembrance project on Sept. 4, 2011. Crow was a resident artist at 7 World Trade Center ahead of the 10th Anniversary of 9/11.
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MANHATTAN — Bryan Crow is not a New Yorker.

But when terrorists struck the Twin Towers a decade ago, the Texas native who is now a resident artist at the World Trade Center was deeply affected, just like many others here in the city and around the world.

The impact was so visceral, in fact, that it's helped him stay sober ever since.

"Right before it happened I cleaned up off of hard drugs and alcohol," he said. "So I’ve been sober just over 10 years."

"It was pivotal in the sense that it was a very surrendering time in my life. It really struck me. It really hit home. I had friends and family [in New York]." 

Perched on the 48th floor of 7 World Trade Center, he and a group of seven other resident artists have been busy rendering their views of Ground Zero and the progress that has been made at the site in the decade since the towers collapsed.

Among them are Diana Horowitz, who was a resident artist in the original World Trade Center, and Todd Stone, a Downtown-based artist who chronicled the evolution of the Lower Manhattan skyline over the past decade, Crow said.

The space they work in is unfinished, with bare light bulbs, and is adorned only by the view of the skyline outside the wall-to-wall windows. Crow, 32, and his colleagues sprawl out on the wide-open floor.

When Crow arrived in New York in early August this year after being approached to be part of the program, he wasn't sure what he was going to do.

"I didn’t have anything planned when I got here," said the mixed media artist, who paints and sculpts, often using "found steel, wire and recycled images," according to his website. 

But over the coming days, he listened to the stories of those who came to visit the building, from 9/11 families to other artists and journalists, and began to formulate a concept.

"I’ve talked to a lot of people and heard stories and where they’re coming from — tourists and residents — and pieced together this painting with all these different perspectives in mind and all these conversations, as well as the physical feeling of being high above the scene," he said.

Crow, a relative newcomer among the cohort of artists, started his work by taking a series of 40 photographs of the memorial and Trade Center site from high above.

He then manipulated the photos in Photoshop and transferred the images onto a board painted to look like a canvas.

The idea, he said, was to evoke the look of a 1940's film.

"The whole image is black and white to capture the memory feeling," he said. It is also divided into panes to convey the view from 7 World Trade Center down onto the site.

Overlaying the photos is contemporary painting. Like the design of the site, Crow is aiming to draw the viewer's eye from One World Trade Center around the site's buildings to the 9/11 Memorial.

"The design element is very exciting and confusing," he said. "It has these swirl patterns to show the excitement and confusion as well as the visual representation of bringing your eye to the memorial."

In the work, which has become his singular focus since he arrived in the city, Crow said the experience has helped him express some emotions.

"I’m trying to find some kind of answer or experience myself," he said.

The artists will be holding a private opening on Wednesday in the space and will be displaying their creations in galleries around the city. Crow is set to wrap up on Sept. 13.

"It’s such a conflicting experience," Crow said. "It’s exciting to have the tenth anniversary, but it's almost hard to say anniversary because it was such a horrific experience."