Watercolor Series: Connection to place - World Trade Center Memorial

Our relationship with place affects us in very deep, formative ways.

As an artist, this theme of place shows up in my work over and over, in many media. I have begun working on a painting series that addresses this multi-layered relationship with place.

The rhythms and cycles of a place set a kind of inner clock for us, we measure ourselves against the sensory qualities of the places we are used to. As we grow and change, our perspective and relationship to a place grows and changes, even if that place appears to be the same. Sometimes when a place we know well changes dramatically, it challenges our own identity as we mourn the loss of the place as we knew it.

A place that belongs to us all: World Trade Center Memorial

© Gayle Mahoney,  World Trade Center Memorial , original watercolor painting on paper, 2015

© Gayle Mahoney, World Trade Center Memorial, original watercolor painting on paper, 2015

I first visited New York City 30 years ago this summer. A native Californian who was then living in San Francisco, I wasn’t a stranger to urban life, but I was astonished at the scale of Manhattan, how densely built it was, the number of skyscrapers, block after block after block.

I quickly learned that, coming out of the subway, from most of the avenues anywhere in Manhattan, I could see the twin towers of the World Trade Center. The sight of these buildings gave me my bearings and helped me set my course to discover many of New York’s treasures.

Ten years later I moved to the New York Metro area, and during the first six years I lived here (I now live and work in Montclair, New Jersey, just 12 miles west of Manhattan), the World Trade Center became a place to take my tourist friends, a place where I bought discounted theater tickets, and a complex I passed through every day on my way to work at the World Financial Center. It was a social hub where I would eat lunch, shop, meet friends after work, go out for a fancy dinner.

When our nation was attacked and the buildings were struck, I watched from Montclair in real time on TV as the towers and other buildings on the site came down. Obviously, no one was more affected than those who lost their lives in the attacks that day and their families, and those first responders who struggle with illnesses acquired from exposure to the site to this day.

In the weeks and months that followed, I felt like the world was blown apart, and began a series of ceramic sculptures (“Tribe of Immortals”) in order to try to come to grips with my feelings but also to embrace the emotions, longings and values that ALL humans share across the globe. 

©Gayle Mahoney   Tribe of Immortals   series

©Gayle Mahoney Tribe of Immortals series

My ceramic “Shelter Totems” series focused on the resourcefulness of people to carve out safe “places” for themselves - either real or imagined, physical or psychological. My current series is more about the breadth of human experience in relation to place, but since I have so many connections to the “place” known as the World Trade Center, I am sure it will come up again in my work and in this blog.

Once I get the new World Trade Center Memorial painting photographed and can get prints made, for each print sold I will make a donation to survivors of 9/11.

Thank you for coming along for the ride! I will continue to show my progress in this series here.

Please share your thoughts here, or on my Facebook page (Gayle Mahoney Originals):