One of my favorite childhood fables was the story of Henny Penny. What always stuck with me was the repeated use of the phrase, “The sky is falling.” It was the first time I was ever confronted with a tale that dealt with hysteria. How could I had known that one day I would feel driven to scream those exact words, but when I saw the twin towers ablaze and the mayhem that was unfolding in real time as we helplessly watch on TV, I felt like that manic chicken wrought with panic and fear. September 11, 2001 is a mental scar I’ll always carry with me.
As intense as the memories are of that day, I can scarcely remember any color with the exception being the perfect blue sky that offered the delusion that nothing that terrible could befall us. What I remember most are the feelings that coursed through me at rates so fast I could barely record them, terror firmly placing a grip around my neck, anxiety tapping Morse code up and down my arms, disorientation mushrooming in my brain and grief taking possession of my heart. I returned home from my job, where we had to evacuate because of a bomb threat, turned on my TV and laid down on my bed to hear the sounds of faint whistles from dying firemen. I felt absolutely defeated.
The tragedy of 9/11 left this country reeling and sent us all on our own journeys as we tried to reconcile what happened. Ken Kaminski’s journey took him to the canvas creating a series of work that spans well over a decade. Using the template of abstract expressionists like Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock and Emerson Woefler, Kaminski has attempted to record the events and emotions of that day as well as the recovery period that continues to shape us. His efforts also allow those who are too young to remember 9/11 the ability to witness the emotion of that day.
FAMERS I am here to report that his endeavors are wildly successful. I had the pleasure of viewing a few of Kaminski’s 9/11 paintings at the Edward Williams Gallery, located at Fairleigh Dickinson University’s Hackensack campus. The exhibit includes eight selected works that brilliantly convey the events of that day brightly expressed in various hues. The exhibit begins with Blue Sky Day – triptych. This three panel painting brings you face to face with speed of these flying bombs and the majestic sky that it corrupted. With each panel the viewer sees the countdown of the planes getting closer and closer until it hits making its bloody and destructive impact.
911 The Moment It Happened is an eerie mix of color. The space surrounding The World Center no longer is colored in blue like the atmosphere painted in Blue Sky Day, instead the blue is muddled with streaks of different colors showing the chaos that followed the impact of the first plane, represented in an explosion of oranges and reds bursting from the side of the tower. Streams of black cover one of the towers like a foreshadowing of despair to come.
Blindsided shows the line of fire going straight into one of the towers then blasting out of the other side. Crippled from the blow, the tower bends and the pain is obvious. All that is missing is the scream, but if you remember the sound of the planes hitting the towers, then this painting will ensure that the awful roar of the plane echoes in your ears. Blindsided is an acute observation of a drive-by.
Twins! is a stoic, almost haunting, vision of The World Trade Center towers before 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001. They were proud and victorious, a symbol of might and power. They represented everything that was great about The Big Apple. In Kaminski’s painting they appeared alive and vibrant again instead of frozen as they are in photographs. The yellow background also contributes to the energy of the piece. It makes you long for the nostalgia of what used to be. If this painting were a song, it would be called The Way We Were.
Wounded Towers is a kaleidoscope of disorder. The colors vividly capture the confusion permeating the area as people scrambled for safety and the bent, smoldering towers desperately tried to remain the symbols of glory that they once were, a last valiant effort before they ultimately disintegrated into dust.
Collapse is engulfed in a blending of hues that bring chills to the spine. The voices of those who were lost don’t just whisper, they shriek. It shows the true potential of visual art. There are no words necessary, this painting is one of the most telling portraits of pain and suffering that I’ve ever saw. If someone wanted to understand the mood of the country when the tragedy of 9/11 occurred, all they would have to do is view this painting.
Considering this year will mark the 13th anniversary of 9/11, I believe Kaminski’s exhibit couldn’t visit the New York metropolitan area at a better time. It allows another way for us to remember and venerate a day that will forever be a part of our history. Kaminski’s work carries with it a raw, emotional ambiance. It pulls you in. No matter how hard the visuals may be to look at, Kaminski’s work burst past your pupils and forces you to deal with whatever memories or residual feelings you may have buried. For as much as Kaminski’s work is steeped in tragedy, it is also immersed in the resilience of the city of New York and its people. Yes, the sky did fall, but we didn’t get mired in the pain. We stood atop the ashes; we rebuilt and honored those we lost. The 9/11 paintings are not only powerful and healing; they are a testament that when an artist creates from his or her soul the work that is generated is timeless.
To learn more about Ken Kaminski and view more of his work check out, http://www.kenkaminski.com/. Kaminski’s 9/11 Paintings will be on display at the Edward Williams Gallery, located at 150 Kotte Place, Hackensack NJ, until 9/26/14. Gallery hours are 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Saturdays.
Photos and Video: F.A.M.E NYC Editor