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September 09, 2011

Artists' commemorations of September 11

Artists express ideas the rest of us struggle to put into words. The four works shown here were created shortly after September 11, 2001, to remember the events of that time. Two—a ceramic vessel and a proposal sketch for the memorial at the World Trade Center—were made by well-known artists. Two—a drawing of a Zuni Knife Wing figure and a sculpture of the Twin Towers—were made by people who helped in the recovery effort and clean-up of the trade center site. 


Peter B. Jones (Onondaga, b. 1947)

2001; Cattaragus Indian Reservation, Versailles, New York 
Wheel-thrown and modeled stoneware; 28 x 23 cm
Gift of Dorian Brooks and Malcolm Kottler 

Earlier this week, Peter Jones shared what he was thinking about when he made this vessel:

It is my belief that some of the effigy pots created by the Iroquois people were meant to capture a specific moment or to record a specific ceremony. The television images of the towers tumbling and the smoke and chaos are captured in the 9-11 pot. The effigies of the screaming man on two castellations of the pot represent the disbelief and disoriented people. The other two effigies are of the two airplanes that hit the building. The process of pit-firing the pot captured the smoke and clouds of the site. Pottery is a medium that can be difficult to predict. I feel that in this pot all of the elements I wanted to portray worked in the final piece. Thank you.

—Peter B. Jones, September 8, 2011


Jaune Quick-to-See Smith (Salish/Cree/Shoshone, b. 1940) and Neal Ambrose-Smith (Salish/Cree Metis, b. 1966)
WTC Memorial 2002
2002; Corrales, New Mexico
Paper, graphite, watercolor; 76.5 x 50.9 cm
Gift of Dorothee Peiper-Riegraf and Hinrich Peiper

This architectural drawing by Jaune Quick-to-See Smith and Neal Ambrose-Smith was included in Unforgettable, an exhibition of artists' proposed memorials on view at the Chelsea Studio Gallery in New York City. The museum's records describe it as "depicting a World Trade Center Memorial commemorating the events of 9/11 from a Native perspective." The artists' thoughts are preserved in notes written on the piece:

Water sounds are soothing. Watching for spouts can be interactive. The spouts emerge from a fountain 3 times per hour. Can create element of surpise and awe. Black granite ring referencing Minoru Yamasaki's original fountain.

Medicine wheel shape is a place for meditation, prayer & healing. Beamed walls w/grassy areas & steps for seating. Fountain at lower level creates wind break—also reminder of something missing, something removed. Could be amphitheatre for ceremonies.

Granite pavers in lawn with names listed alphabetically. Also interactive. Trees which provide spring & fall colors & can be lit @ night. Wheelchair access.




Octavius Chuyate (A:shiwi [Zuni])
Zuni Knife Wing 
Paper, ink, colored pencil, felt-tipped marker
Gift of the New York City Fire Department 

The Zuni Hotshots, an elite wildfire-fighting unit based in New Mexico, came to New York toward the end of September 2001 to assist urban search and rescue teams in Lower Manhattan. Crewmember Octavius Chuyate made this drawing as a gift for the Fire Department of New York, who later donated it to the museum. The text that accompanied the presentation reads:

The Zuni Pueblo Knife Wing is a symbol of the Zuni Warrior Society and is a protector of the land and its inhabitants; it represents courage, honor, wisdom and strength. The spirit of this symbol is carried into battle or other life threatening situations. The Knife Wing is also a guardian angel watching each and every one of us.

Historically, the Knife Wing symbol was blessed and placed on warriors' shields to protect the warriors. This ancient tradition continues to this day with the Zuni Interagency Hotshot Crew. The symbol is part of the crew uniform and is placed on crew vehicles.

The Zuni Interagency Hotshot Crew presents this Knife Wing artwork, by crewmember Octavius Chuyate, to the citizens of New York and the nation. This gesture is a symbol of unity and brotherhood under one nation.

May this symbol protect our nation and it's people. God Bless America.

The Zuni Interagency Hotshot Crew, October 12, 2001
Bureau of Indian Affairs Zuni Interagency Hotshot Crew Zuni, New Mexico 



Darryl Pronovost (Mohawk)
2001, Kahnawake Reserve, Quebec
Welded steel
Gift of the artist

Beginning in the 19th century, Mohawk ironworkers helped raise the New York skyline. After 9/11, many volunteered in the rescue and clean-up effort, and several began walking down to the museum's George Gustav Heye Center at the end of their shifts. In 2002, the museum honored Native ironworkers' historic contributions to the city with the photography exhibition Booming Out: Mohawk Ironworkers Build New York. At the opening, a group of ironworkers presented the museum with this sculpture welded from materials salvaged from the WTC site.

Photo credits (top to bottom): Walter Larrimore, NMAI; Ernest Amoroso, NMAI; NMAI Move Team; Ernest Amoroso, NMAI


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I particularly like the picture of the effigy pot. It's beautiful and haunting all at the same time.

We badly need to preserve the cultures from which these wonderful artists come.

Brent the language guy.

Wow, very cool pieces of art and very timely. I have to say that i am drawn to the iron workers piece. Something about it's rough edges and raw construction, it is a symbol of what America was built upon. Thanks for sharing these.

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