Like art, grief is highly personal. The same piece of art—or tragic event—may generate a variety of emotions and reactions among those who have directly or indirectly experienced its impact. With the tenth anniversary of 9/11 fast approaching, people worldwide are expressing the feelings and emotions evoked by that ridiculous and cowardly act of terrorism and the heroism shown by so many during and after the event. But I don’t need an anniversary as a reminder. In fact, I am reminded of 9/11 every single day.
In addition to being a Culinary Diva, I am an insatiable art collector. My companion, who shares this addiction, and I travel far and wide to attend art shows, museum exhibitions and the like. We collect what we love and this has led to some acquisitions beyond means and budgets. We see many, many art pieces each year, but every so often an art piece creates a special and indelible impression on our collective psyches.
Several years ago during a visit to Scottsdale art galleries, my art companion and I encountered a painting that affected us deeply. Turner Davis is a wonderful young artist whose work is shown at the prestigious Riva Yares Gallery. Turner’s father, James G. Davis, is a well-known surrealist painter and father and son share many painting and compositional attributes.
When I first saw The Twin Towers, I didn't know what to think of the piece. It was disturbing and deeply captivating at the same time, made more so by its large size (70 inches by 70 inches). The size and style of the painting really did not fit our house and collection, but I could not stop thinking about it. Periodically I would visit Turner’s website to see his new works, but I kept coming back to The Twin Towers. Turner and I even communicated about the painting from time-to-time with Turner wanting to find a home for it with us and I resisting for a variety of reasons that don’t usually deter an avid art collector—i.e., space, style and price. At one point, we thought the painting had been sold and were crushed by the news. But life can be fortuitous sometimes, and in June Turner wrote asking if we were still interested in The Twin Towers. A true art addict looks everywhere for inspiration, and we viewed Turner’s missive as a sign from the art gods that The Twin Towers was meant for us. So we broke our piggy banks, looked under seat cushions for change, completely rearranged our already over-crowded walls, and took the plunge. The Twin Towers was ours.
The Twin Towers can be interpreted in many ways. That is what makes art so interesting and this painting so exciting and challenging. What follows is my interpretation.
I, like the artist, am turning 40 this year. Maybe that is one reason I connected so strongly with this painting. Turner and I grew up during the same eras—from the political turmoil of the 70s, to the excesses of the 80s, to the banking meltdown of 2008, to the “recession” that still grips the world. Throughout Turner’s and my life, a sense of hopelessness has frequently prevailed. No matter what you do, it is not enough or it won’t change things. My defense mechanism is an endless, if not naïve, optimism that sometimes blinds me to the reality of life its own self.
For me, this painting is all about hope and action trumping evil and it abounds in symbols. Evil is afoot as symbolized by the smoking twin towers and the dark masses passing over the Earth. Death is imminent as symbolized by the snake that has worked its way from the shore and threatens to wreak havoc on this innocent family. And the skeletal remains scattered among the family are reminders that death is not a new concept. The family’s idyllic life, as evidenced by the fishing tackle and the children playing prince and princess, is being compromised by the turmoil around them. But evil cannot be ignored. Hearing no evil (the headphones), seeing no evil (the stars in the eyes) and speaking no evil (clenched lips) won’t make it go away. The children seem to realize this as this they look imploringly at their father for guidance. Though the father may not have acted yet, others have as evidenced by the firefighter bravely heading into the gloom and doom before him.
I would like to think the father will emerge from the sand, put his arms around his children and tell them everything will be alright. I would like to think the brave firefighter represents the many that should take action against the misguided few who threaten our very existence.
The fragile nature of life is rampant in this painting. But so too is the message of hope. Against the evil portrayed by this painting stand the prince and princess of innocent youth providing hope that all will be fine in the future. While 9/11 is the catalyst for this painting, the on-going need to stand tall against evil, strife and adversity is its theme.
This is what I see when I study The Twin Towers. What do you see?
For information about Turner Davis: