"The September 11 Triptych"

"The September 11 Triptych" - 48" x 144"

permanent collection of  National September 11 Memorial & Museum

A few days after the World Trade Towers fell I had to go to Ground Zero to try to comprehend what had happened. The sky was capped with a lid of smoke. Time stood still in the continuity of the fires and emergency lights. There was no sense of day or night. The wreckage turned the space inside out and upside down. Everything on the ground had a new unified identity called “rubble”. The landscape itself was transformed into de Kooning’s painting “Excavation”. 

I stayed at Ground Zero for a full day taking it all in - the images, the feelings, the smoke and gray ash. When I returned to the studio I cut up a charcoal study that I had previously drawn from my mentor's painting “Excavation”, and started to build the foundation of the triptych with the collage of the drawing parts. By adding graphite and acrylic gel medium  with a brush, and drawing with oil pastels my observations and sensations unfolded onto three panels.

A year after the "September 11 Triptych" was completed I learned that de Kooning had used a reproduction of Brueghel’s “The Triumph of Death” to inspire his painting “Excavation”. Brueghel’s Medieval painting depicts the doom that humanity self-inflicts through war, religious intolerance, greed, and other destructive tendencies. Brueghel’s subject has repeated itself throughout the years all over the world, and it found its way into “Excavation”, and de Kooning passed it on to me in the “September 11 Triptych”. 

Joan Levy Hepburn