We awoke to the realization that the images we were seeing were not special effects, but the piercing of the very heart of freedom and democracy.
I had tried to paint as usual on Tuesday, moving from time to time between the television in the house and the computer in the studio. I knew that artists were also opening their e-mail, going to the correspondence to my previous letter. Up until 9 am Eastern, the correspondence was the normal sort of thing that concerns artists — this time: problems with charitable art donations, creativity, copyright, disappearing paintings. After the shock: anger, dismay, and a deep and seemingly permanent grief. All the world, and particularly the world of artists that I have the privilege to know, was stunned. My brush shook and I cried at my easel.
The e-mails comforted. It seems to me that artists just wanted to say something to somebody. They went to their keyboards and released notes of solidarity, cards of thankfulness, poems, hastily produced paintings, messages of grief, sympathy and hope. Ideas ran from the gentle discouragement of all brands of fundamentalism, everywhere, to swift and definitive retaliation against all those with hate in their hearts and those that harbor them. Others among us quietly repeated, “I have seen the enemy, and it is us.” We all knew we had moved into a new era.
On behalf of artists everywhere we send our deepest condolences to those who have lost friends and family. Of the letters that came in there were many that deserved publication, and I have included a few in today’s responses. Here, an anonymous artist writes: “Throughout history millions have died for ideals and concepts that have passed us by. But the enemies of mankind still remain: fear, ignorance, hatred and poverty. Power and Might will not defeat the kind of passion seen in this terrorism. This kind of passion needs an adversary in order to thrive. Do not give it to them.”
PS: “Yet, Freedom! yet thy banner, torn, but flying, streams like the thunderstorm against the wind.” (Lord Byron)
Esoterica: “All religions, arts and sciences are branches of the same tree. All these aspirations are directed toward ennobling man’s life, lifting it from the sphere of mere physical existence and leading the individual towards freedom.” (Albert Einstein)
(RG note) The following are selected responses to the above letter. I apologize if your letter is not included. In the following group of letters we have generally chosen the earliest ones and the most representative. Thank you for writing.
Humanity will prevail
by David Lloyd Glover, Beverly Hills, California, USA
The World Trade Center was merely a structure. Glass, steel, gypsum, marble and an architect’s idea. The planes were flying appliances. Our only loss were those wonderful souls who perished at the whim of some hopelessly deranged subhumans. The buildings will be rebuilt. The planes replaced on the assembly line. Twenty lousy lowlifes will not take away the freedoms and goodness that our countries have fought so long and so hard for. We have paid such a big price for our democracy in the past and we as nations of caring and passionate people will not give it up so easily just to satisfy but a few lunatics. I kept on working in my studio like other artists I know. Celebrating our freedom of expression and the right to bring beauty into our world. It is our way of honoring those who just days ago gave up so much to give us all a just and peaceful life. Humanity will prevail.
by Ifthikar Cader, Sri Lanka
We share your grief and mourn with you and all affected peoples for the loss of innocent lives. In Sri Lanka we have had to often experience such terrible carnage and tragedy, and can closely empathize with you and all of America. It is no exaggeration to say that Terrorism in all forms and disguises is the scourge of mankind and must be rooted out totally for peace and freedom to prevail for all of mankind. In support and in hope of a better tomorrow.
Demands to fight terrorism
by Del Davis
As people who travel a lot we demand that all aircraft be fitted with secure walls and doors between flight deck and cabin, with video surveillance for cockpit personnel. There should also be secure arming and training of flight-deck personnel and air marshals such as are used by the Israelis. We need improved training for baggage and carry-on inspectors and the development of a failsafe personal identification control system. We also need increased surveillance of cities, cruise-ships, ferries, trains, busses, tunnels, bridges, schools and other sensitive and potentially vulnerable locations. Above all we need increased attention to chemical, biological and nuclear potentialities as the brutal terrorist fanatics will surely use them if and when they can.
Take terrorists out
by John P Swain, UK
While it is difficult to hold a war against an idea — the immediately threatening fanatics must be taken out as quickly and cleanly as is humanly possible. Then we may begin the long process of making all the world safer. This could very well be the preoccupation of the 21st Century.
We artists should be in the forefront of the healing process. We are the eyes of civilizations. Daily we toil with concepts like love, beauty, and joy. We honor the wonders of our world and remind people of the miracles of variety and specificity. Men and women, field and stream, sunrise and sunset; we shoot with camera or brush and we do not take from our environment. For the most part we are gentle souls. For us, all of life is our celebration.
Faith and courage ahead
by Sophie Marnez, Lyon, France
What I saw was a bunch of ill equipped people with cutters and knives achieve the unthinkable against a country that spent millions in technology to defend themselves. I also saw people who are so empowered by their beliefs that nothing seems impossible to them, to the point that they can do it, no matter what. Now think of what we could achieve if we had the same fire and faith inside ourselves, and use it to do good things. Of course, I condemn their purpose, but I consider the level of accomplishment with faith, intelligence… and little else, compared to what their opponents possess. It has been a lesson to me, and I know that from now on, I cannot allow anymore stupid excuses like I don’t have the right brush or colour (to remain in your domain) not to achieve, or worse, not to get to work. I realize that what is missing most of the time is the faith and the courage to go ahead, no matter what.
Will do my best
by Kim Rody
I watched the events Tuesday morning live on the television. I couldn’t bear to watch any more, so I packed up my paints and drove to my junior college and crashed a drawing class, where I was met by the open arms and tears of art teachers and students. I have painted furiously for 2 days and nights. I felt I needed to create beauty… it was the only contribution besides giving blood I was able to make. I’m going back to my real, regularly scheduled class today. Some people will not be able to paint. I will paint my best today.
by Lois Coletti
We as a nation have been attacked. We need to come together over this attack on our national security. I want to support our leaders in taking whatever action is necessary to stop terrorism in our world. It is not a matter of flaming any passions — those passions are already there and the passions for a holy war, a Jihad has been around for centuries! I think it was a mistake after World War II to displace Palestinians and force a theocracy of Israel upon them. The anger over that decision is played out on a daily basis in Israel/Palestine. But nothing justifies the cold-blooded murder of the thousands of people in the WTC or in the airplanes. I know that an endless cycle of retaliation is not the answer, but terrorists must get the message that the world will not tolerate their agenda anymore than the world would tolerate Hitler’s agenda. I would encourage artists to express the inexpressible through their art and share it with others in the unique way that they can do this.
Great faith needed
As artists we put our feelings (soul) on the paper or canvas. Now that we have experienced so much evil, it is very hard for me to paint the beautiful. I have always thought that an artists job was to transfer this beauty of feelings (soul) to the representative forms we see everyday. Great faith is needed to restore those feelings as well as reflective time.
Without resorting to too much bravado or patting ourselves on the back it may be possible to see artists as a fairly evolved bunch. By and large we see beyond the jargon that goes on around us. Thus we may be able to see more potential for the “intelligent beauty” that might be our contribution. This is a time for the lessening of the call to the various gods to help us with our problems. Just as we have a brush or a chisel in our hands, we know that we are the creators of our own good and bad, our own justice and injustice.
Wake up call
by Bill Riedler
What We Should Do About It? Hopefully, the events of the day will be a wake-up-call. Today we witnessed a tragic attack that appears to have victimized thousands. First thought is that we are experiencing something that we do not deserve. However, I suggest we are experiencing the consequences of attempting to use force to solve conflicts. It clearly shows the fallacy in our thinking that we, as individuals, or as a nation, can use might to subdue those who oppose our thinking. We falsely believe we can use that same overwhelming power through a network of intelligence gathering to protect ourselves from retaliation from the people that we caused to hate us. I just heard the Mayor of New York say that this is an innocent unprovoked attack. To say that is a symptom that we have been closing our eyes and ears to the hatred that our use of force has been creating around the world. I suggest we use this horror as motivation to change our ways and stop using power as a substitute for love.
by Joan Rieveley, Windsor, Ontario, Canada
I too have been in stunned floating disbelief of the attack on America. I am so sickened by the loss of innocent life. I had to participate in an art show with such a heavy heart that I could not wait for it to end, everyone that came HAD to talk of the event. I was heartened by the fact that the majority felt that we should all come to the realization that an all out war would be counter productive — more innocent lives lost in fighting the faceless enemy. Hate, anger and retaliation prevail but level heads must come together so only the guilty parties would face justice. It is so easy to condemn a whole race of people and from what I have seen there are NO winners in war. I grew up in world war two in England, we were bombed mercilessly, but we knew the enemy’s face, after it was all over the dead were from both sides, no less dead for being right or wrong. In the end just sons and daughters, moms and dads of ordinary innocent folks… lives lost or ruined forever. May God help those in power to find the right solution.
Rise above acts of barbarism
by Gary Giesbrecht
I do not believe that what happened this week was or should be construed as an act that was done in the name of religion, or even in Ireland the acts of terrorism there should be said to have been done for the good of either the Protestant or Catholic religion. We should call it like it is and say that these are terrorists and do not belong to any religion. In the name of mankind we should rise above these acts of barbarism.
Make art not war
by Barbara Mason, Portland, Oregon, USA
As artists we are in a unique position to start the healing process. As a printmaker and a member of several printmaking internet lists, I am pleased to say that there is already a benefit portfolio of prints being planned with national and possibly international simultaneous showings that will be a fundraiser for the firemen lost in the trade center tragedy. It is a small thing we can do, but it will promote healing and rememberance of the bravery and indomitable spirit of the American people. We say, “make art not war” and truly hope this small plan of ours will reach many and promote healing. It will be a small edition, usually our editions are 31 prints, 30 for distribution and one for our archives. This one could be larger, it is in the planning stages. I thought you would be interested in this, it was being talked about by the end of the day on the 11th.
Want to go home
by Elizabeth Mast, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
What a tragedy it is to live in fear. To wonder what’s next. To feel afraid. I share your sadness. I enjoy your newsletter because us ‘non-artists’ count on you to create works and share a perspective that make our lives more beautiful. The image of you crying at your easel made me more sad about the devastation. In all, it’s made me very homesick and wanting to come home to and be with my family.
I too am so upset and cannot paint right now. As you know us artists have to have inspiration, and lets face it, our world as we have known it, is changed and will change even more.
by Barbara Rivers
When I was a youngster, there was a Movie, Science Fiction, The Day the Earth Stood Still. It was about a Space Ship arriving and landing in Washington. The whole nation was terrorized by this UFO seeing it as a threat, the end of the world from Outer Space, it was not to be, for that ship brought a message of Peace… In our wildest dreams and imaginings, who would believe that the threat is not from outside our planet, but right here on Earth. We were given the Freedom to Choose, from whatever “Creator” we believe in, I personally choose Peace.
Brush dipped in tears
by Grant McLean
How our world has forever changed, in a heartbeat. I haven’t quite been able to pick up the brush yet, but somehow feel, like those who wonder about the relevance of holding major sporting events at a time like this, that this is precisely the time to do just that. At the safe distance that we perceive to be our comfort zone, perhaps we are not looking for loved ones in a pile of steel and laptops, but we are all looking closer within for who and what is of real meaning. Surely there are artists (painters, singers, actors…) among the missing in New York, and for certain, there are thousands more artists personally touched by this unspeakably treacherous event. Will they continue to sing and dance and act and teach and sculpt and paint? Absolutely. Among the greatest freedoms I feel I have is to pursue my dreams as a painter, bouncing as it seems between luxury and necessity. Brushes may be dipped in tears for a while, but I will paint on.
by Yaroslaw Rozputnyak, Moscow, Russia
The difference between the separate states and people in them living becomes ever less. I condole to New York, Yugoslavia, Iraq, Palestine and Israel. It is all my relatives. And yours too, lady and gentlemen! It is the truth. In third millennium there are no more different states with their politics, there is simply mankind, there are simply United States of the World. Also there is an art for all mankind. I do not know, we shall have in Moscow our bread whether or not, but if it at us will be, very much it would be desirable to make a beautiful tapestry for restored New York. Probably, the artists from all world will donate the pictures. It is the special mission of each artist — to treat souls of the people for saving of the World — it is his duty to mankind. Now is the hot question — can we save innocent civilians in the suspected countries, those have done nothing bad. Must many innocent people suffer because of one bad man? Or we shall see incredible things again? Democracy means law. The law of a true democracy must defend innocent people in any country. Is existing the country in the World with true democracy?
by Tamim Ansary (Afghani American) submitted by several artists
We’re flirting with a world war between Islam and the West. And guess what: that’s Bin Laden’s program. That’s exactly what he wants. That’s why he did this. Read his speeches and statements. It’s all right there. He really believes Islam would beat the West. It might seem ridiculous, but he figures if he can polarize the world into Islam and the West, he’s got a billion soldiers. If the West wreaks a holocaust in those lands, that’s a billion people with nothing left to lose; even better from Bin Laden’s point of view. He’s probably wrong, in the end the West would win, whatever that would mean, but the war would last for years and millions would die, not just theirs but ours. Who has the belly for that? Bin Laden does. Anyone else?
Let’s hope this evil that happened isn’t followed up with a miscalculation that pulls the world into a worse hell. ‘Walk carefully and gingerly’ should be the watch words for the next little while. If revenge is what is called out the president should be very careful how he heeds that message.
Hope to bring joy
by Mary Frances Batut, South Surrey, B.C., Canada
Are artists more sensitive or are they more open about showing their emotions? Tuesday’s events in New York affected me with feelings of overwhelming sadness and acute anxiety. Like you, I cried and found myself doing so several times in the next few days. The people who surround me voiced their shock, anger and despair but I found I was the one who eyes were brimming. I was told I am too sensitive and take things I have no control over too much to heart. Is this the “artistic personality”? The ability to feel great unbridled joy for the beauty of the simple things in our own personal surroundings and acute despair and incomprehension for the horror perpetrated by other members of the human race. Tuesdays are traditionally the day spent in the office doing bookwork for my husband’s company. I couldn’t bring myself to do it — I needed to surround myself with the beauty of my garden and contemplate on the perfection of nature. I also waited desperately for my daughter Sarah to return from university so that I could hug her and hold her close. My heart aches for those who have lost loved ones. I am filled with despair and anxiety for the possible repercussions of this horrific event. I fear for a lost of beauty in the world our children will inherit. As other artists have said in your feedback letters — all I can do is to keep on producing art in hope that it will bring joy.
by David Oleski
I’m preparing to leave for an art show in Durham, North Carolina. The show was not canceled, and I feel that in some way I really should be supporting the decision to continue by taking part in the event. On one hand, art, and specifically my art, really does feel so unimportant in view of the current events of the world. I do believe that there is a certain purpose to what all artists are doing, especially in the eyes of the world. Whether our work is that of political commentary or only defiance of the surrounding pressures to sway from our intimate studies of the world around us, there is validity in this same steadfast intensity of focus, and in the need to promote it for exposure. Art is supposed to be a form of communication, and maybe such a silent and introspective dialogue has a purpose. Maybe I’m just attempting to justify a selfish purpose to sell artwork. I could just as easily see it as doing my best to help others continue to see the world through the eyes of an artist, and to help them see something great within themselves at the same time. I hope.
by Judith Jones, Pleasant View, Utah, USA
If we want to wipe out terrorism, we should not be terrorists. We should indeed catch all parties who are responsible, all terrorists for that matter, bring them before a court of law. Trial and punishment all according to rule of law. How can we get that message to our governments? I still, 4 days later, can not sustain concentration to paint for long, so I am puttering with my brush, which really means paint a bit, clean the studio for a bit, go for a walk, paint a bit…
What can I do?
by Grace Cowling, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
I have several rented pieces in the office towers of Toronto’s financial district. As I beheld the repeated images of massacre, the pieces catapulting downwards I thought of all those sacred creations, each a work of divine art — the human brothers and sisters whose parts were singed, dismembered — not of any art work that may have enhanced office walls. The question surfaced: What can I do? I thought of numerous memorials the world over for “Unknown Soldiers.” There are row upon row of white crosses on Jersey in the Channel Islands. Each one reads “God knows who.” So perhaps what I can do is silently approach each new painting as a memorial to one of the many souls known to God although unknown to us.
The art spirit
by John Adkins, Albertville, Alabama, USA
I too awoke to the shock and horror that struck our nation on Tuesday. I cried that evil could grow so strong in the hearts of men, compelling them to even dream of and plan such an act of violence against innocent people. People like you and I, who lived and loved and strove to make this world a better more beautiful and caring place. What a waste of man power and energy. What did it prove? That I can shock the world with the magnitude of suffering I can inflect. So what? I think that America has already proven that it can out give, out love and overcome any situation thrown in her path. We will not be defeated by acts of terrorism. There is no victory for the terrorist, only a loss of the collective humanity of the world. The human species has regressed and become a little more of the horrible creature that it can be without love, order and spirit directing its ways. There was no gain for anyone involved in Tuesday’s acts of terror. I am torn between striking back, and know it must be, and in not sinking to the terrorist’s level. My God has said that vengeance will be His. I pray that God would exact that vengeance on terrorism, hatred, and injustice where ever it may be found. I pray that the individuals responsible in any way for this tragedy would be overwhelmed by the power of the love of God in such a way that they could not live with their guilt. God will ultimately defeat the powers of darkness, hatred and death forever. Life goes on! Terrorism will not suppress the art spirit within us. The Plein-Air Artists of Alabama painted on Saturday Sept 15 and Sunday Sept 16 in the Sipsey River Picnic area. I had previously scouted the area and identified several wonderful locations. Several of the group camped at the Brushy Lake campground. This area makes a wonderful subject for early morning paintings. The weather was great.
“Anger, if not restrained, is frequently more hurtful to us than the injury that provokes it.”