Friday, September 11, 2009

September 11 Art Therapy

Cari Amici (Dear Friends),

Most everyone remembers how s/he heard about suicide terrorist pilots flying hijacked planes into the Twin Towers in New York. Instead of working outside alone at home, I was driving into Austin, Texas, for a conference with Michael Barnes of the Austin American-Statesman. He wanted to teach artists how to get his attention for art publicity in the newspaper.

In my car I had been listening to KGSR on the radio and thinking of other things, when my mind caught a strange phrase. I listened as the report of the first plane hitting a tower was announced and my first thought was, “That’s not funny,” as I almost simultaneously realized, “I am not listening to one of those funny stations. This is real.” The day did not get better.

On the morning of September 12, not knowing what else to do, I began some art therapy with wax. Like one of those people who cannot seem to tear themselves away from some horrible image, I kept the TV on all day and sculpted through my tears.

My father was shot down in Vietnam during that war (he was later rescued) and as a military brat, I dreaded that vision of uniforms at the door bearing the sad news of a lost love. At first I imagined having to be one of those people and telling thousands of families the horrible news, knowing that I would not have to say a thing, my mere uniformed presence would convey all. Then I realized that for an event like this, no one needed to knock on a door. People would be seeking out information about those close to the situation.

I cried an awful, physically painful cry as I imagined the kind of situation in which a person could decide that jumping out of a skyscraper was a better alternative to staying in it.

Naturally, my sculpted figure was raw. And, as luck would have it, I was scheduled for an art show in a church two weeks after September 11, 2001. I decided to create a plaster copy of my little wax and exhibit the piece. It turned out to be good therapy for a lot of people. We could not get the events out of our minds anyway and at the time, it was difficult to pretend nothing had happened and move on, as they say.

My plaster sculpture was later picked up from my studio by a Canadian woman who lost her sister in the towers. She borrowed it for a traveling exhibit of art and music titled the “Release of Souls.” I am not sure where that sculpture is now. But I later cast the sculpture into bronze, which is what you see here. The white patina represented the ashes that covered everyone that day.

I sent images of my wax “9-1-1” to several friends via e-mail, including my new friend Vasily Fedorouk in Seattle. Vasily responded almost immediately with an image of the granite sculpture that you see here. Reading and writing English was often a laborious project for my Ukrainian-born friend and his e-mails were mostly images. I was stunned to think that he was indeed the same as I was - using art for therapy, but my, . . . was he fast! Granite? Whoa.

Later, when we spoke in person, he told me that he did not create this stone carving as a result of September 11th. It was completed before. He has actually had two titles for this work: “History of Gene Code” and later “Infinity.” For him it was a composition about generations. However, after the towers fell, a friend visited him and told him that this sculpture fit and he sent it to me to share our mutual feelings.

Today I also want to share with you my newest marble carving. Oddly enough, the inspiration for her came directly from the events on September 11, 2001. And yes, I have been working on this sculpture off and on since at least 2002. She is titled “The Offering” and is about the strength and beauty of making oneself vulnerable.
See more images on my Web site:

Can we change the world (for the better) with openness and strength - and creativity?

Learn More about The Release of Souls.

My Tribute to Vasily (1950-2009):


Anonymous said...

Thanks Kelly,
Nice 'Write' and 'Images'.
You are alive, tuned-in, and
very talented.
Sorry to hear about your sculptor friend passing on.
Gene P.

Casey Klahn said...

I read with sadness your post on Vasily's passing. I didn't know he had been in Seattle. I'll look into his work some more, now.

Very evocative and fine pieces, here.

God bless, Kelly.

Kelly Borsheim said...

Thank you, both of you. Vasily came to the US because he was invited to the Goodwill Games in Seattle. He lived there until 2003. There were several reasons for this, but one benefit was that Chicago is two time zones closer to Europe. Phone calls and travel were easier.

This tribute in my latest newsletter is here:

and shows some of his work, as well as some personal shots you will not see elsewhere.

Thank you again for your sympathies. Vasily's death is a terrible loss.

Jo Castillo said...

Hi Kelly, The Offering, is amazing. She is just beautiful. Sigh... I missed her somehow when reading before and found her when looking at your new bronze.

Kelly Borsheim said...

Thanks, Jo. I think I did a marketing boo boo on my new marble "The Offering" I am really happy to have finished her and I like her a lot, but I think I was so overwhelmed about the loss of Vasily that my tribute to him overshadowed other parts of my life.

But then, that is as it should be . . . no?

Thanks again Casey and Gene.