Pre & Post 9-11 artistic creativity… a look back.


With the advent of the 10 year anniversary of the Sept. 11th tragedy, I think back mostly of the event and the many things that have taken place during the 10-year span.  I got back to playing my favorite sport (lacrosse) and met some of the most intelligent and inspiring people in the world.  Professionally, I finally found what I was meant to do in life and what I’m highly passionate about.  It’s amazing what happens during that time period.  But I do think back to times before Sept. 11th 2001 and found some things (artistically) that are still with me today to share, which have shaped me.

Fall 1996.

I was a freshman at The Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY.  My drawing professor, Herbert Beerman, gave us an “open assignment” of architectural drawing.  I decided to go on the roof of my fraternity house (Delta Gamma Theta) on 272 Clinton Ave. and draw some Brooklyn rooftops and the commanding view of the Manhattan skyline in the back.  After Sept 11th 2001, the drawing was put in a simple frame where it hangs in my living room today.

(“Brooklyn roof-tops & the Twin Towers”.  Conte-crayon on newsprint paper, 18×24 inches)

Fall 1998. 

I was a junior and a Communication Design major (a.k.a. “COMD”) and I had an “Illustration” class with Professor Rudy Gutierrez.  We were given the assignment to illustrate the words “Opposites Attract” and I decided to do something with a current event(s) theme near that time period of the mid-to-late 90’s in New York City.

Growing up in New York City, I clrealy remember when my hometown was NOT the place to be.  It was violent, unsafe and dirty.  It was TOUGH, not trendy.  Buying a cup of coffee could cost you getting a “fat lip” back then, instead of $5.00 and free wi-fi as of today.  People were moving out to the suburbs for a safer environment.  By the mid-to-late 90’s, New York City was cleaning up it’s act and people were moving in.  Property value sky-rocketed.  It was the first time I heard and understood the word, gentrification.

My idea for the assignment was an “urban vs. suburban” feel.  My take on it was that people living the city would be worn-out and eventually want the slower, more tranquil vibe of the suburbs.  The opposite was people from the suburbs (or small towns) would want to experience the fast, exciting lifestyle and the ever growing trends of the city.  The concept sketch showed both respective sides of attention towards each other.

The final piece was turned into a painting that hangs in my living room today as well.

(“Opposites Attract”.  Oil on canvas, 22×28 inches)

Post September 11th.

I realized what being in the real world is – especially after such a tragic event.  Being in the workforce for a bit over a year, I realized how little traditional artwork was made from my part.  I found a call for art submissions for a 9-11 themed show.  I decided to answer the call and enter a piece of work.  That piece titled “Heroes” was exhibited for the show “Prevailing Human Spirit” at the Society of Illustrators in New York City.  That was the only time I’ve ever had a piece of my artwork at the museum.

(“Heroes”. Oil on board, framed, 20×30 inches)

“If you are able,
save for them a place
inside of you
and save one backward glance
when you are leaving
for the places they can
no longer go.
Be not ashamed to say
you loved them,
though you may
or may not have always.
Take what they have left
and what they have taught you
with their dying
and keep it with your own.
And in that time
when men decide and feel safe
to call the war insane,
take one moment to embrace
those gentle heroes left behind ”

-Major Michael David O’Donell