Art exhibit reveals 9/11 reaction and healing

By Tim Higgins, Special to The Morning Call

9:31 PM EDT, September 10, 2011


 "It was the start of a routine day. On an impossibly clear September morning, my cell phone rang. A flight attendant friend called me from Texas: 'Are you OK?' "

So begins an artist's statement written by Audrey Anastasi of Brooklyn, N.Y., who was witness to the horrible events of Sept. 11, 2001.

"From the roof of our building in Sunset Park Brooklyn," writes Anastasi, "we watched in disbelief as the stalwart towers burned, our eyes, lungs and hearts filling with the smoke from burning flesh, melting plastics. We did not know if anyone could possibly survive the dense clouds billowing from the upper floors, and then, from the ground, as the concrete crashed."

"In the aftermath, I was compelled to paint this series of small, colorless, humble squares, all focused on the suggestion of loss and of helplessness, rather than on a literal depiction of events."

Anastasi's work is titled "Death Leap" and it is on display at the Yocum Institute for Arts Education in Wyomissing as one of the 80 works by 40 artists included in the "9/11 10th Anniversary Memorial Exhibition," a multi-venue exhibition organized by Marilyn Fox, director of the Freyberger Gallery at Penn State Berks.

Works are also on display at Penn State Lehigh Valley and the Jewish Cultural Center of Reading.

The exhibit, through words and pictures, tells the story of that tragic day and the emotions and fears that linger 10 years after.

"I realized in January this year would be the anniversary," says Fox. "I really wanted to commemorate and memorialize 9/11. 9/11 is easily the bookmark of the millennium. We live in a pre and post 9/11 world."

Fox issued a call-to-artists found herself with 80 works — ranging from individual pieces to serial pieces and installation work.

The images vary from the literal to the figurative and are in a wide range of mediums, from mixed media to paintings to bronze scultpure. They are laden with message, politics and philosophy.

There are several regional artists, but most are from the New York City area.

"The response was overwhelming. I was surprised by the diversity of the work," says Fox, who decided to seek other venues, resulting in the four-venue exhibit.

Each venue chose works for its own exhibit, often centered on a theme. Susan Rohn director of the Yocum Institute chose to explore the consciousness of individuals left to pick up the pieces; Tammy Mitgang, director of The Jewish Cultural Center chose work that explores the silence of post-9/11, the return to spirituality and prayer, and the pervasive suspicion in our post-9/11 world. Penn State Berks actually has two exhibits, one titled "Crisis and Reaction" and the other "Response and Healing."

Penn State Lehigh Valley gallery director Ann Lalik is showcasing art that combines themes of remembrance, newly established pride and strength in a show called "Reaction and Healing." There are works by seven artists.


"I wanted to bring together a whole bunch of different perspectives, a whole lot of diversity. I'm really interested in how the students react to this."

Beth Krensky, an associate professor of art education at the University of Utah, has three works on display at Penn State Lehigh Valley.

One of those pieces, "Keys to Homes That Are No More," is indicative of the overall tone of the exhibition. It is a conceptual piece, expressing multiple layers of meaning. Like the title suggests, the work is composed of what were once orphaned house keys, left without a lock or a home, that have now been transformed by Krensky into organic relics of their original selves.

"The keys are objects of reference," explains Krensky. "The house, or the people who lived in it, are no longer there."

Most of the work on display is conceptualist or expressionist — stylistic approaches that seem to best capture the subject of 9/11.

While Krensky lives in Utah and was in Colorado on Sept. 11, she has a solid connection to New York, having been born St. Vincent's hospital in Greenwich Village.

"I was holding my 5-year old in my arms and watching the news when the planes hit the towers. Those horrific images … I couldn't get them out of my head."

Since then, says Krensky, her work has changed, as she has been trying to bridge the gap between art and ritual — a healing ritual. Now her work is about impacting change.

Marjorie Morrow, who was and still lives in the Chelsea district of Manhattan, watched the burning towers of the World Trade Center from the street.

"Our lives changed as we know it," she says. "I felt … I have got to do something."

Morrow has 13 works at Penn State Lehigh Valley, all 11- by-14 inch mixed media works of charcoal, ink and pastel.

Morrow's "Of Steel and Straws, and Strength and Sting," is a striking pastel and charcoal on paper. The two towers are seen as abstractions, large and looming. But surrounding them are dark lines that zig zag across their surface, suggesting the falling debris as the towers slowly burn.

"I started them as a kind of art therapy for myself. Then I put them away and kind of forgot about them. But six months later I had them hanging in my studio and they were getting a reaction from people. I decided I wanted to go deeper, to explore them. So I started a kind of 10 year after series."

Tim Higgins is a freelance writer.

Jodi Duckett, editor


9/11 10th Anniversary Memorial Exhibition

Penn State Berks: "Crisis and Reaction," Sept. 11-Oct. 20 and "Response and Healing," Nov. 6- Dec. 15. Freyberger Gallery, Tulpehocken Road, Reading. 610-396-6140

Penn State Lehigh Valley: "Reaction and Healing: The 10th Anniversary of 9/11," through Oct. 21, 2809 Saucon Valley Road, Center Valley. 610-285-5000.

Yocum Institute for Arts Education: Exhibit through Oct. 20. 1100 Belmont Ave., Wyomissing. 610-376-1576.

Jewish Cultural Center: Exhibit through Dec. 11. 1100 Berkshire Blvd., Wyomissing. 610-921-0624

Special Events:

Memorial event at Penn State Berks, 4 p.m. Sept. 11, with guest speakers, music, video.

Members of the Lehigh Valley Muslim community will share their experience as Muslims living in America post 9/11, 11 a.m. Sept. 16, Penn State Lehigh Valley. Registration is required. Contact Diane McAloon at 610-285-5066.

Copyright © 2011, The Morning Call

Audrey Frank Anastasi


Installation and Event Photos