Oh no, not again was my response when I looked out of my window and
saw the Hudson silently come up our streets and filling and covering everything in its way. A few minutes later everything was in darkness.
Luckily I had flashlights from numerous hiking trips. I ran outside on high grounds to see how far the Hudson will conquer our streets. Living in downtown Manhattan it almost reached Hudson Street, its natural coastline from years back. I realized this was not a dream this was for real but hoped the lights would come back on within hours.
I had just returned from the Dominican Republic where I painted and taught for four weeks. Many friends said, “that is hurricane season” and
I hoped for the best. What an irony and here I am back home and dealing with a hurricane.
Oh no, not again my response was based on the attacks of the WTC in 2001. I had a studio on the 91st floor of Tower One to paint the vista of NYC from above. The residency was for 6 months from May – October. Luckily I was late going to the studio that morning but on my way saw what was happening. The first tower was coming down and a plane was flying into Tower One right where my studio was. All I could think about was my son who was in school right across from Tower One. I had to get him out of the building. My darkest thoughts were we might be at war.
Having grown up after WWII in Germany with my mother’s fear of another world war. I left Germany as a teenager to follow my dream to become a painter and went to art school in London. Coming to the USA in the seventies made me less think about war since it was the most powerful country. Now I could concentrate on my art.
Painting has always healed my soul. I go to my studio and start a painting or drawing and within a short time I am fully absorbed in what I am doing. After 9/11 I was in shock for three months until a friend suggested I head to my studio and paint the feelings I experienced. For over two years I painted views from Tower One from memory until I felt calmness and a sense of peace again. Sandy did not destroy my work but I was displaced for over two weeks.
My apartment building’s basement was over 9 feet in water, all electrical instruments, boilers, and elevators were destroyed. It was chaos. Having to go back and forth to pick up clothes and check on the apartment made me lethargic, depressed and exhausted. The building was enveloped in total darkness, the stairwells, and hallways and it brought up feelings of the destruction and darkness after WWII and the fear I felt after 9/11. I couldn’t believe that I was again in a zone of Manhattan destroyed, this time by natural disaster. How will I deal with getting my life back together. To add to my income, I design books for a large corporation. It was hard to concentrate on my work. My focus and creativity had left me, but I still had a job. It looked better then after 9/11 where I lost everything.
I am now better equipped to understand my needs in disaster situations: head to your studio and paint. 9/11 taught me how to cope and have the strength to make the best of it. I looked at the work I had painted in the Dominican Republic, and started feeling excited. Nature, especially the sea and its environment are the inspiration of my paintings. Calm filled me after I started painting with thoughts this will also pass.
I do worry about my income from selling my paintings after a disaster that destroys part of our community. Many galleries in Chelsea were flooded and have to rebuild which means another slow season for the art world. After 9/11 we experienced the same economic slow down in the art world. It takes time to rebuild but I always hope for the best. My passion is painting and I will continue to create beautiful work to enjoy. This is how I express my feelings and give to the world.