Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Don't Panic

I was mortified, just as all of you were, when I received a phone call early in the morning, turned on the television, and saw a plane crash in to the World Trade Center. My friend Greg lived only 11 blocks from the WTC at the time, and my grandparents were in Queens. I spent several hours calling and making sure everyone was okay.

Like so many others, I spent much of my free time in the following days glued to the tv in complete shock and horror. In my personal life, what struck me in those few days was that my daughter was just a toddler, only 1 1/2 years old at the time, and was completely oblivious. She doesn't remember that day at all.

We would walk around the neighborhood as usual, and while I was haunted by the lack of airplanes, she paid no mind. Finally, on the 3rd day, an airplane flew by. After the absence of air traffic, it was, to me, a streak of anxiety flying across the sky. Indigo just pointed, "Look mama!"

I was in my final year of art school at the time, and I felt that it was not only my responsibility as an artist, but it was necessary to process my own feelings, to paint about what had just happened. I created a whole series, but the one you see above, entitled "Don't Panic," was the best and most poignant. It is 4 feet by 4 feet, painted on masonite. I used a sharpie marker and randomly and frenetically wrote "don't panic" over and over and over, covering the entire piece (the sharpie had a flat tip by the time I was done!). Then I painted the image you see above, a clear, peaceful blue sky, a stencilled airplane, a silhouette of myself and my daughter (using a silhouette because it was us, but it could be anybody). I rubbed some turpentine over the oil paint after it dried a bit, and all of the "don't panics" came through to the surface.

Now Indigo is in Second Grade. I still cry whenever I catch footage of that day. Then, I am the kind of person that can't really listen to NPR in my car because I will start balling at any sad news. But Indigo has no idea. The topic somehow came up the other day, and I had to explain to her what happened. It's just another event, something she'll read about in American History when she's a bit older.


fernfiddlehead said...

Thanks for sharing your painting and thoughts. I enjoyed reading it.

littleputbooks said...

Wow Leah, not only is the painting incredible, your story is so powerful and familiar. You really captured what many of us went through after 9/11, it is nice to read my thoughts echoed so eloquently.

Ryan *

LeaKarts said...

Thanks to both of you! I really wish I had a better image of this painting so that I could make me-self a print. I need to track down the person who bought it from me and have them take a higher-quality image for me.

Wow, I can't believe that was 6 years ago; then again, it feels like so much longer.