Paintings From The Perimeter

This is a visual memoir: paintings that depict the rising of the towers of Ground Zero in the year 2010-2011. The artist Sally Pettus was working from a studio on Greenwich Street, just south of the Ground Zero site, at the moment the rebuilding effort began in earnest after many years of bureaucratic stagnation. The year 2010 begins with hints of steel grids now rising above the surrounding protective fence. The area became electric with chaotic sounds of construction, and the tourists and natives were mesmerized by the implications of the scene as they crowded the nearby sidewalks.

As 2010 ended and 2011 began, the towers, Freedom Tower (Tower One) and Tower Four, on the southeast corner, were stretching for the sky. The Memorial was nearly finished. The anniversary of the 9/11 attack was fast approaching, and the work seemed to double in intensity.

Sally Pettus walked the perimeter of this vast site, finding unique points of view. She invested the paintings with the conflicting feelings inherent in this essentially worldwide project. There are elements of optimism reflected in the polished surfaces like granite and glass: the ghostly vision of cranes perched atop the towers, mirroring the upward effort. There are jangling moments: images of stark beams shining and distorted in the windows of parked cars. And there are moments of peace, which feature graveyards with headstones of the long-departed, bearing witness to the symbols of human resilience.

This visual moment in time memorializes the 10th anniversary of the attack. The paintings will hold that moment for those who have been there, and will give those from afar an idea of this extraordinary experience. All will realize this moment will never again be the same. The paintings are haunting, yet sure. The colors are muted, yet striking. This book ends with a painting of the graveyard at St. Paul's Chapel, a shelter for the brave first-responders. The text reads:

In summer sun and shadow
The stones keep vigil-
The cranes now dwarfed
By bright leaves
The gleaming new face
Of Freedom Tower.