News / USA

An Artist at Ground Zero

A watercolor by Aggie Kenny of workers at ground zero
A watercolor by Aggie Kenny of workers at ground zero

Multimedia

Following the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center, New York courtroom artist Aggie Kenny visited the site many times to sketch and paint the men and women working to recover the remains of the dead and clear away the debris. Then, unsure what to do with it, she put the work away - where it remained until Julie Bose, director of the New York Police Museum, happened to hear of it. Kenny's art is now the subject of a solo show at the museum, "Artist as Witness: The 9-11 Responders."

Some of New York's best-known political figures attended the opening, where Kenny's delicate sketches and watercolors of the workers at what is known as Ground Zero in the months after the attacks are on display alongside a few artifacts from the cleanup: a rake, a yellow suit.

"I actually lived just a block from the location," said Raymond Kelly, New York's police commissioner. "I think the artist has done a remarkable job of capturing the feeling of those terrible days after 9/11."

Artist Aggie Kenny
Artist Aggie Kenny

Kenny is reserved about her work. She calls herself a "reportorial" artist and says she was drawn as a witness to the former World Trade Center site.

"I think it was my way of trying to come to terms with this horrible tragedy," she said. "Like everyone else, I was just totally distraught and had no idea how things would be right again."

She needed to see it being made right, and to draw what she saw. Armed with a credential from the Salvation Army charity organization, identifying her as a "historical artist," Kenny visited Ground Zero every few days from early March to late May 2002. Images of unlikely gentleness are the result. She returned often to a huge tent that the responders called the "Taj Mahal," where they went to rest and have a meal.

"It struck me as being almost cathedral-like," Kenny said. "There were just hundreds of people bustling about, but they were basically very quiet. It was so unusual to see so many people from so many walks of life, so many backgrounds, working just beautifully together. There was a pervasive atmosphere of love, I would say."

A visitor to Kenny's show at the New York Police Museum, "Artist as Witness: The 9-11 Responders"
A visitor to Kenny's show at the New York Police Museum, "Artist as Witness: The 9-11 Responders"

In many of the watercolors, responders, who included police, firefighters, ironworkers, carpenters and others, appear to be physically and emotionally exhausted. One painting shows the sleep tent, where workers went to have a rest.

"Often there were men in each and every cot, with teddy bears beside them, with their boots by the cot, just totally, totally exhausted," Kenny said. "I think they fell asleep seconds after they hit the cot."

A painting from late March shows firefighters waiting for stretchers bearing the remains of two firemen who died in the attacks. Another shows a weary policeman and workers behind him with rakes.

"And of course the rakers are looking for human remains," said Kenny, "and late in the game, too, because this was the fifth of May, 2002."

When the cleanup ended that month, Kenny put the paintings and sketches away. They remained unseen until a friend told Julie Bose of their existence.

"I didn't forget about them," Kenny said. "The whole subject of 9/11 to me is sacrosanct. You don't want to take these sketches and go out to a street corner and sell them. I really didn't know for eight and a half years what I would do with these boxes of sketchbooks."

At the show's opening, police and other responders said they are glad the work is on public view. As for Kenny, she has returned to her job as a courtroom artist. She says she doesn't know if she will ever again witness scenes like those she saw at Ground Zero.

You May Like

Obama: I Will Do 'Everything I Can' to Close Guantanamo

US president says prison continues 'to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world' More

Sierra Leone Educates on Safe Ebola Burials

Also, country is improving at rapid response to isolated outbreaks, but health workers need to be even faster, officials say More

Christmas Gains Popularity in Vietnam

Increasingly wealthy Vietnamese embrace holiday due to its non-religious glamor, commercial appeal More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Jane Monheit Christmas Speciali
X
December 22, 2014 8:15 PM
Chanteuse Jane Monheit sings the holiday classic “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” and explains why it’s her favorite song of the season.
Video

Video Jane Monheit Christmas Special

Chanteuse Jane Monheit sings the holiday classic “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” and explains why it’s her favorite song of the season.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.

All About America

AppleAndroid