9/11: 20 Years Later
Twenty years of trauma in over 40 paintings by artist Todd Stone
BY MARK HALLUM
The destruction – and ultimate
rebuilding – of Lower Manhattan
has been on the mind of painter
Todd Stone for more than two decades.
He witnessed the jetliners soaring
over his lived studio space in Tribeca on
Sept. 11, 2001 himself, and watched as
two of the most iconic buildings in the
Manhattan skyline were destroyed in an
act of terror that killed around 3,000
Now, over 40 paintings later, Stone is
showcasing this body of work in partnership
with NYC Culture Club which
is displaying images that document the
terrorist attacks as well as the rebuilding
of the World Trade Center.
Together, NYC Culture Club’s Parker
Calvert and Stone believes that now is
the time to tell this story no matter what
possible critics may have to say for the
catharsis the works could do for both men
and the larger community still suffering
in the aftermath of 9/11.
“I was called to history, history came
knocking at my door. And this wasn’t
something I asked for, but I was uniquely
positioned to do this and you know, post
nine on and I and I practice my art. I
did my work. Just like the cops, just like
the fi remen, and with consequences.
Not the consequence they paid, but with
tremendous emotional trauma that I was
working through in my pictures. So, the
witness work was done as the fi res were
burning down here,” Stone said.
On that sunny day, when the planes
crashed into the Twin Towers, Stone was
already in the habit of sketching, painting
and photographing the skyline during the
At fi rst, believing that the plane was a
missile, Stone says he dove for cover. But
upon surveying the view from his loft, he
snapped a photo of pigeons rising from
the din of the impact.
“We were living with the burning at
the World Trade Center and at that time
we chose to stay because it seemed like
the patriotic thing to do,” Stone said.
This would transform into a painting
now displayed, along with many others, in
the NYC Culture Club’s space beneath 3
World Trade Center. In fact, 3 WTC has
become the center for much of Stone’s
work over the years being the artist in
residence for Silverstein Properties, having
the whole 71st fl oor to himself.
One motif that has stuck with Stone
through many of his pieces is the symbol
of the crane. In Japanese culture, the sight
of this bird is a good omen. A different
kind of crane became commonplace in
the New York City skyline as contractors
worked to rebuild downtown, and
Stone says he gave himself permission to
make the tools of high-rise construction
Standing-in symbolically for human
likeness in much of Stone’s art concerning
9/11, he says, are the many windows
on buildings. He goes through the effort
of putting a window in each painting to
represent a victim from that day.
The sense of loss comes through in
another of Stone’s works based on a scene
at Ground Zero on Sept. 11 2002.
“This was the fi rst time the site had
been emptied of debris and families
were invited back. This wind came up,
and all of this dust was unsettled from
the fl oor of the World Trade Center, and
came up. All of these unsettled spirits
seemed to rise,” Stone said, “I feel those
unsettled spirits now.”
According to Stone, the refl ecting
pools that stand at the site of the Twin
Towers still create a feeling reminiscent
of that upward draft.
Stone was also an early critic of the
rebuilding of downtown after 9/11, believing
Ground Zero should be memorialized
in similar fashion to the Battle of
Gettysburg site. But the years, as well as
his personal sense of powerlessness, have
worn at his resistance. Now, he appreciates
the rebuilt downtown and the site
that commemorates the immense loss of
life that day.
“I’m very aware of this, as an ongoing
catastrophe as people continue to get sick
and die,” he said. “But my message is one
Renewal, in fact, is the name of the
NYC Culture Club’s spot in the
Westfi eld Mall in World Trade Center
will be hosting Stone’s work from Sept.
1 through the end of the month in recognition
of the 20th anniversary of the
Calvert is co-founder of the art space
with his brother Clayton Calvert, both of
whom were witness to the attacks from
different parts of Manhattan.
“The show speaks to hope, to courage,
and to a communal resurgence after immense
tragedy,” Parker Calvert said.
While many of Stone’s works are already
hanging in the gallery, a number
of them are still gracing the walls of his
workspace in 3WTC.
PHOTOS BY MARK HALLUM
Todd Stone’s rendering of a photograph he took moments after impact, note
the pigeons taking to the air.
Todd Stone’s depiction of tower rising in the place of the Twin Towers.
A rendering of the scene at Ground Zero on Sept. 11, 2002.
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