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

China Investigates Former Powerful Security Chief

Former security chief and member of Politburo Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang, under investigation for suspected 'serious disciplinary violation' More

India, US Look to Reset Ties During Kerry Visit

This week's talks will be first high level interaction between two countries since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge More

Video Young African Leadership Program Renamed to Honor Mandela

YALI program, launched by President Obama in 2010, aims to build skills in business, entrepreneurship, public management and civic leadership 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.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid