Don Bracken, Susan Crile, Charlotte Ghiorse, Pamela Lawton, Gwinn Loman, & Torild Stray
All Galleries | August 20 – September 25, 2021
My work mingles painting and sculpture to explore landscape as elegy shaped by natural and political history, order and chaos, movement and entropy, light and shadow—often combining natural materials and a polymerized clay mixture I developed.
When I was selected by Graham Nickson (dean of the Studio School in New York City) in 1997 as one of eighteen artists to participate in the pilot artist-in-residency program World Views, launched by the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council in unused spaces of the World Trade Center’s North Tower, I saw nature and the world through new eyes.
From my 10,000-square-foot studio on the 91st floor, I watched the clouds dance across the Manhattan panorama, felt the tower sway in high winds, saw the long banks of tall, narrow windows pummeled by rain during storms. Except for listening to Glenn Gould playing the Bach Goldberg Variations, the only sound I heard I when painted in the tower was the quiet breathing of the building’s ventilation system as I looked out the windows and watched the microcosm of New York far below.
It has been over twenty years since I made art from my perch provided by the World Views program in the seemingly halcyon days before the towers’ fall, and some of my paintings in this show are from the perspective framed by those windows on the world—a perspective that, of course, no longer exists.
At 8:45 A.M., September 11, 2001, I was mowing a lawn on a hot late-summer morning in upstate New York. At 8:47, a friend in New York called to tell me that a plane had just hit the North Tower of the World Trade Center. I watched on television in real time as the second plane hit the South Tower at 9:03. Lost in the collective shock from the moment, as I watched the news I documented my disbelief and confusion and that moment in history by drawing and painting images on my television screen. As the Towers fell at 9:59 and 10:28, and in the aftermath, my perception of New York and the world was shattered and changed forever, as the world tilted on its axis and fell into confusion.
So much of my work has been influenced by my short time working in the World Trade Center, from the broad expanse of the landscape, to the iconography of the windows, to all the different symbolic and political baggage attached to the World Trade Center.
In the piece Heaven and Earth, Looking North, a panorama of Manhattan is painted on panels the size of the World Trade Center windows using my own polymerized clay mixture, which naturally shrinks and cracks as it dries, leaving the viewer with an image of the mortality of a shattered city. But perhaps most importantly, my work delves into the collective psychic wounds that are felt to this day and repeatedly reopened, as in the recent events in Afghanistan. Through the lens of the windows of the World Trade Center, I remember the time before and after 9/11.
9-11 took place on the bluest of blue days. Even now, a shudder runs through me on the occasional perfect blue cloudless day of Autumn. Hundreds of millions of us collectively watched and experienced a paradigm shift unfurl in real time. Yet, it was practically impossible to take in what we were seeing, to grasp that the Twin Towers, among the tallest buildings in the world and a symbol of America's power disintegrated in seconds. Amidst the ghost-like structures, the falling rubble and the rising ash was the dust of 2.606 souls.
A disaster planned for TV, for maximal media attention, it showed the world the power of what a few handfuls of trained terrorists who were willing to forfeit their lives could do. They were able to incite a twenty-year war against the mightiest military force on earth. In that moment there was an unbridgeable rift between what we saw taking place, what we knew about our past and what it portended for our future.
I set out to capture both the real and metaphoric state of 'in between'; the ineffable and indeterminate time of being in a disaster, both slow and simultaneously sped up, the alchemical shifting of space as material was transformed from solid to dust. I worked from videos on TV, that allowed me to catch, through consecutive frames, the vibration of the dematerializing concrete that seemed to be vaporized into clouds of dust as the towers were undone in free fall.
The camera is always the third eye, that sees the destruction and its dislocation. Sometimes the splatter on the lens polkadots the surface of the drawing. Other times, the glare of the flash on the TV screen obliterates part of the image. The camera is inevitalby there:
After the Fall, then the diaspora. Those that survived fanned out in all directions, onto boats, across bridges, walking, covered with ash to the North through Central Park, where I spoke to some still unable to comprehend what had befallen them- and subsequently us.
The result has been 20 years of war. Gore Vidal writes about America as being in "Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace" for her entire history. Let us hope that the silver lining of 2020- 2021 is to make all of us understand that without world wide coopereation, collectively and individually, we will have very little time left on this magnificent planet Earth.
In 2001 I lived less than one half mile from the World Trade Center near Canal St. I had a brand new 7-month old baby boy, and it was election day, on Sept 11th, 2001. We had just bought a video camera from the day before, and I ﬂipped on the TV at 9:26AM to see Pat Kiernan the morning guy on NY1 telling of the Trade Towers disaster, I thought that is going to be a terrible scaffolding job. A moment later one of the Towers Collapsed and I had my video camera rolling as it happened. I went to the Roof and Sure enough an enormous Plume of Iron Red Gray, thick smoke with chunks of Paper in it Devoured the Neighborhood and Migrated to Brooklyn just a few short blocks away. I was stunned, changed my clothing and prepared to bring the baby to the playground. I thought it was a neighborhood thing, until my husband came home. These paintings are all about the fascination of needing to look at the debris and revisit the disaster over and over again. I took photos, video, and also worked with news clippings from that day and for months after. At the time I just really focused on the collapsed structures and the smoke, and could not prevent myself from re-creating the phantasmagory in paintings, on paper. I am still not sure how looking at a painting differs from a photograph. Painting these helped me process what happened. Fortunately everyone I knew who worked there did not go to work that day. What a miracle. I really ﬁxed on gray, black and white because that was all anyone could see. I am still fascinated by collapsed structures, and how they mold into a landscape.
Pamela Lawton’s paintings and drawings have reflected the height of the World Trade Center, the cacophony of Times Square, NYC, the fountains of Seville, and the rhythms of the Indian Ocean, all places where she has created art with zeal. She is a recipient of a 2019-20 United States Fulbright Scholar Grant in Siena, Italy, at the Siena Art Institute. She has exhibited in galleries and museums both locally and internationally, including one-person exhibitions at the Galeria Nacional in San Jose, Costa Rica, The Conde Nast Building, NY, 180 Maiden Lane, NY, The Atrium Gallery, NY, and the Galeria Isabel Ignacio in Seville, Spain. Group exhibitions including her work have been featured in Pierogi Gallery, NYC, Sideshow Gallery, NYC, Tibor De Nagy Gallery, NYC, The Artists’ Museum, Lodz, Poland, and the Emmanuel Heller Gallery, Tel Aviv. Book collaborations with poets in which multiple images of her work appears include Sweet-voiced [mutilated] Papyrus, Anne Waldman (Spyuyten Duyvil Press, 2016), “Walking After Midnight”, Bill Kushner (Spuyten Duyvil Press, 2011), and “A Place In the Sun” (Spuyten Duyvil Press, 2010).
Lawton is currently an Artist-In-Residence (AIR) at Chashama, NYC and has been an AIR at the World TradeCenter through the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, among others. Interviews featuring her one-person exhibitions were featured on NY 1 News, in November 2011, and November 2009. She received a BA from Bennington College in visual arts and an MFA in painting from the City College of New York and Scuola Lorenzo De Medici in Florence, Italy. While a faculty member at Eugene Lang College, New School University, she created a study-abroad art program in Sri Lanka. She has been teaching at the Metropolitan Museum of Art for more than ten years, where she helped to create a course “Seeing Through Drawing”. She is currently on the faculty of Manhattanville College in Purchase, New York.
My work has changed dramatically since the beginning of the pandemic. In years past I would start by sketching with charcoal on the canvas. I would pace the room drawing, erasing and restarting. This was my process. My older work was often outlined by thick black oil bars- borders prominent. As the lock down continued my work changed. No more charcoal. No more pacing. The black outlines faded.
Now I work with palette knives and quickly paint images on the canvas. I keep 4-5 canvases open working them simultaneously- impatient for the oil to dry. Things progress and images easily surface in the canvas. I layer more paint and create more texture. My colors changed. The primary colors of my previous work faded into my new palette. I mix the pigment, layer and thin out the paint with turpentine. This is my evolution-Borders gone, Colors blended. My every day is charged and intoxicating.
The images are bold. My work is energy and expression. The studio is where I feel confident and secure. These images are five feet plus. The freedom of a large, empty canvas is exhilarating.
Torild Stray (1964) is a native Norwegian. She runs an active artist studio in an old caviar factory in Bergen, Norway. This includes painting, drawing, sculpture, teaching and initiating new art projects. Stray divides her time between New York and Norway.
Her vision and commitment as an artist have brought critical acclaim and a strong international following. Her work has recently been shown at Oseana Art Centre, Norway, Oslo Gallery, the Armory Show, New York, Michael David & Co Gallery, Brooklyn and the National September 11 Memorial Museum, New York.
Stray is the recipient of the Bergen Municipality Grant, The Agnes Gund Award, a New York Times Scholarship, The Scandinavian Society Cultural Award and The Lower Manhattan Cultural Council Artist in Residence Program in the former Twin Towers, World Trade Center. Her work is in the collection of the New York Federal Reserve Bank, Grieg Holding, Birger Mowinkel Art Collection and the 9/11 Memorial Museum, New York.