Ten years ago, on Sept. 11, 2001, I lived in New York. Deeply saddened, mourning lost friends, and shocked to the core like everyone, I first did what I could to help others. In the days that followed, I gravitated to the city’s museums, which threw open their doors and waived admissions fees, welcoming a population in mourning.
There was a new kind of camaraderie after Sept. 11, and I recall a sense that everyone around me, whether on the subway or in a museum gallery, was in the same state of mind, and we were all paying special attention to each other’s fragility.
For me and for many others, the city’s museums were a helpful focus in those days of intense emotions. Whether looking at Pre-Columbian ceramics or contemporary paintings, it was comforting to see that much art has been made over the centuries and across a great variety of media to explore how conflict, upheaval, and death are followed by the inexorable continuities of nature, social reorganization, and rebirth.
The loss has been profound, but 10 years later, New York is rebuilding, and lives have moved forward.
Since 2001, working in museums, I have learned that many people, and especially artists, responded to Sept. 11 by turning to art and active creativity, channeling the energy of their emotions into the process of making something.
Woodmere was recently given the magnificent, five-panel painting Aureole (2001), made in the aftermath of Sept. 11 by the painter and filmmaker Lynn Blackwell Denton, a longtime instructor in Philadelphia’s art schools, including University of the Arts and Moore College of Art & Design. Like me, Denton was living in New York on Sept. 11, 2001, and Aureole was made there in the strange time that followed. It feels only right that it should be on view for this tenth anniversary.
And so, Woodmere has organized an exhibition, “Response, Remembrance and Reflection,” which will be on view from Sept.10-18. With Denton’s painting as a starting point, we have assembled an intimate collection of works that were also created in the aftermath of Sept. 11, including works by Charles Kaprelian, Peter Paone, Mark Salz, Bill Scott, and Stuart Shils.
We will also show works from the collection by Frank Bender, Julius Bloch, Diane Burko, Murray Dessner, Sam Feinstein, Louise Fishman, Frank Gorka, Razel Kapustin, Mitzi Melnicoff and Dona Nelson that seem appropriate to the reflective spirit of this moment. Nelson’s painting Corner (1985) is a New York street scene, and the twin towers are prominent elements.
As director of Woodmere, I am writing this as an invitation to the community to visit “Response, Remembrance, and Reflection.” Through the nine days of the exhibition, Woodmere’s doors will be open free of charge.
“Response, Remembrance, Reflection” is on view from Saturday, Sept. 10, through Sunday, Sept. 18, at Woodmere Art Museum, 9201 Germantown Avenue. Admission to the exhibition is free. Museum hours are: Tuesday through Thursday, 10 a.m.–5 p.m.; Friday, 10 a.m.–8:45 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m.- 6 p.m., and Sunday, 10 a.m.–5 p.m. For visitor information, call 215- 247-0476 or visit www.woodmereartmuseum.org.
William R. Valerio is the Patricia Van Burgh Allison Director and CEO of Woodmere Art Museum.