Tuesday, April 16, 2013


There is nothing that I can add to what so many people have already said about Boston Marathon bombing. Like so many others, I am simultaneously outraged and saddened, unable to do anything but pray and weep. Unlike some artists, who go into the studio in order to work out their immediate feelings and thoughts, artmaking for me is an extremely slow, alchemical process in which experiences and emotions may not become visible until years, or even decades, later.

Other artists work differently. On September 11, Toni Franovic was visiting in New Jersey. As he made his way towards Manhattan to keep an appointment with a gallery that was interested in showing his work, he watched as smoke began to rise from across the river. As he began to understand what had happened, he turned back, and the next day, he came to Washington, where he could work in the basement studio of friends. One of the paintings he made in the next few, frantic days depicts the New York skyline as it is seen from the Jersey side of the George Washington Bridge just after the horrific events of 9/11. A lurid, flame-filled sky is reflected in the water below, revealing an ugly, green monster lurking just beneath the surface.

Toni Franovic, Untitled, oil on canvas on board, 2001,
on of 7 works shown in  Kaddish for New York 
 at the Dadian Gallery in the fall of 2001

Raw and filled with pain, this picture now hangs on a wall in my living room. Often, I experience it merely as a flash of color, a familiar punctuation mark seen from the corner of my eye as I go about my daily business, evoking no more emotion than a table lamp or a footstool. This is a well-known phenomenon, in which we cease to notice things that are part of our everyday life. Just as I sleep soundly through the sirens and other noises that surely punctuate most nights in my busy, urban neighborhood, even great artworks can start to function like wallpaper when we see them every day.

Today, however, I almost cannot bear to look at Toni’s silent witness to our collective howl of anguish. Today, the wound is wide open once again. Today, the violent monster winks and leers, rejoicing at the death of innocent children, at once-exultant runners who now have no legs. Today, the pain and suffering and fear spreads insidiously among us, daring us to go out in crowds and cheer on some other glorious, sun-filled day, lest the monster strike again. Today, I wish that I could paint away my sorrow, but right now I can only weep.

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