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Trying To Remember The Color Of The Sky On That September Morning

Sometimes the best history is told through art.
Trying To Remember The Color Of The Sky On That September Morning
Image from: visualventuring.com

Even though I went to art school myself (as did both my kids), I'm not much for standing around and looking at art. I have art in my home, but I don't really like to go somewhere to look at it; I just don't have the attention span (or good enough knees). Plus, if you see something you like and you know you'll never be able to afford it, it's just torturous.

People who try to explain pictures are usually barking up the wrong tree. -- Pablo Picasso

I've always gotten a kick out of conceptual art (think Yoko Ono), but when it's too intellectual, it flies right over my head and I'm bored. It's like trying to decode a too-clever vanity license plate.

Not this piece. The second I saw it, even before I knew the name of the installation, I knew what it was about. Because that's the biggest thing East coasters remember about 9-11: The sky was so blue that day. And the thought dominates every sunny day since: Was this the same heartachingly beautiful shade?

The end of the Ramp overlooks Memorial Hall and the soaring Trying to Remember the Color of the Sky on That September Morning. This artistic installation, created by Spencer Finch (American, b. 1962), is composed of 2,983 individual watercolor drawings commemorating the individuals killed in the attacks of September 11, 2001 and February 26, 1993. Each square is a unique shade of blue, and each is a distinct attempt by the artist to remember the blue of the sky on the morning of September 11.

“Finch’s work centers on the idea of memory. What one person perceives as blue might not be the same as what another person sees. Yet, our memories, just like our perception of color, share a common reference.”

The quote, “No day shall erase you from the memory of time,” comes from Book XI of Virgil’s The Aeneid. New Mexico artist Tom Joyce (American, b. 1956) forged each of the letters from pieces of recovered World Trade Center steel.

“Originally trained as a blacksmith, Joyce was invited to harness the transformative process that occurs when iron is touched by fire. He took wounded, remnant steel … and forged it … into letters of hope and beauty. The result reminds us that Virgil’s words are not just a statement; they are a promise.”


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I'd just arrived in Yardley, a 1%er kind of town in Bucks County, when the first plane hit. Everyone in the doctor's office was listening on the radio, asking how could a plane miss a building that size? When I went in to see the doctor, I assumed it was a bizarre accident.

And by the time I came back out from my appointment, the second plane had hit and everyone knew.

Driving south on I-95 toward home was eerie, a post-apocalyptic vision. No planes, no vapor trails, and the only other car I saw on the road was a state trooper's. I kept looking up at the sky, wondering what would happen next. When I got home, I woke up my son (who was crashing on my couch between jobs) and told him what happened. I turned on the TV to see it for myself.

We watched for about ten minutes, and he said, "Mom, turn it off. This is war pornography."

He was right. I turned it off, and didn't turn it on again for hours.

What I want to say is, this work of art brought all that back. That's what good art does.

And I still can't decide which shade of blue.

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