While awaiting photographs from Baltimore, I thought I might write another Artist post and speak a little about what creating Better Angels has meant for me.
As I have written in other sections of this website, like millions of others, I experienced 9/11 through my television set. I experienced it as an American, and identified with it as a former New Yorker. I sat bewildered and in shock for hours until around 3pm when someone said: “We think that more than 300 firefighters died today.” That sentence devastated me. It brought the tragedy home. They were the ones who ran into the buildings. For me, that sentence held in full measure both the brutal tragedy and the supreme heroism of the day.
There are many challenges in being an artist: growing your work and paying your mortgage among them. Like everything, there are pluses and minuses. Some artists – and I am one – process their emotional life through their work. This may be more or less explicit, and more or less conscious. It holds true for music, literature and all the arts.
Another privilege of being an artist is that sometimes we can create work through which others can also process their own emotions. The art creates the space for an experience that is personal to every viewer.
Better Angels did not begin because I knew firefighters. I knew only one and he lived in Colorado. Better Angels came from my desire to take a positive action in response to a terrible event. When The New York Times published all 343 pictures of these firefighters 12 days later, I knew I had the basic material to someday make something to honor these men. I saved that page. It was several years before I knew what to do with it.
Little did I know all the places that choice would take me.