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

    Russian-speaking Muslim Exiles Fear Possible Russia-Turkey Thaw

    Exiled from Russia as Islamic radicals and extremists, thousands found asylum in Turkey

    US Presidential Election Ends at Conventions for Territorial Citizens

    Citizens of US territories like Guam or Puerto Rico enjoy participation in US political process but are denied right to vote for president

    UN Syria Envoy: 'Devil Is in the Details' of Russian Aleppo Proposal

    UN uncertain about the possible humanitarian impact of Russian proposal to establish escape corridors in Aleppo

    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.
    Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Busi
    X
    July 28, 2016 4:16 AM
    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Philadelphia Uses DNC Spotlight to Profile Historic Role in Founding of United States

    The slogan of the Democratic National Convention now underway in Philadelphia is “Let’s Make History Again” which recognizes the role the city played in the foundation of the United States in the 18th century. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, local institutions are opening their doors in an effort to capitalize on the convention spotlight to draw visitors, and to offer more than just a history lesson.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora