Sunday, January 29, 2012

9-11 on a Dice Roll

Acrylic on gessoed hardboard,11¼ x 14¼''
Painting #205, 2012

This past September I was invited by the Elliott Fouts Gallery to take part in a group exhibition entitled ''Planes, Trains and Automobiles'' scheduled to open on March 3. The idea of using a Monopoly game board came to me during the following week as I was driving to the Greater Moncton Airport to pick up a family friend who was on a returning flight from Montreal. Upon taking the airport exit, you have to cross a railroad track to get to the terminal. So there I was, in an automobile, crossing a train track, to get to a plane.

My initial idea was using one of the four railroad spaces on the Monopoly game board. But the concept changed once I was able to acquire a plane and a train token on eBay. The locomotive engine token is part of the Monopoly ''70th Anniversary'' edition, while the jet plane game piece is from the Monopoly ''Here and Now'' edition. All three token have different finishes, the car has a semi-luster metallic finish, the train has a chrome finish while the plane is made of pewter.

As I was setting up the board game for the initial photo study and started moving the pieces around, the whole narrative came to me when I dropped the jet plane on New York Ave. I felt my heart sinking and it became a very unsettling moment. At the same time, it felt too important to dismiss. By the time I was done setting up the props, my initial concept would take on a whole new direction. The image may seem whimsical on the surface but has many cross references. The first serving as a 9-11 memorial on lives lost, the many injured and those left behind.  The 2001 World Trade Center disaster was also an attack on democracy and freedom, and the aftermath would immediately impact air travel, airport security and cross border crossing on a global scale. The count of dots on each dice totals 9 + 11,  and the two hotels are in reference of the Twin Towers. 

September 11, 2001 is forever etched in our consciousness. I was driving to Fredericton, NB to view an art exhibit at the Beaverbroook Art Gallery when I heard the drama as it unfolded live on radio. Later that evening and for the following days, I just sat in a numb state, transfixed and in disbelief in front of the TV set, absorbing the surreal video footage being replayed which also included two other passenger planes, one that targeted the Pentagon in Arlington, Va and a fourth (United Airlines Flight 93) that crashed into a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. The repercussions of the September 11 terrorist attacks are all immeasurable in the emotional, financial and physical realm. It would later lead indirectly to the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as additional homeland security spending, totaling at least $5 trillion.

A year later, I would visit ''Ground Zero'' where the World Trade Center once stood. Seeing the cross made from recovered steel beams rising above the ashes like a Phoenix was an overwhelming sight. As was the banged- up Sphere Sculpture that once stood outside the World Trace Center (surrounded by a water fountain) that was recovered in the wreckage and installed as a memorial site next to an eternal flame as the centerpiece of the Hope Garden in nearby Battery Park. 
The Train engine on Kentucky Ave is in reference to the ''Blue Grass State'' for having the most productive coal field in the US and for it's mining history. Coal was the primary source of fuel for steam engine locomotive prior to WW2 before eventually switching to gasoline, diesel and electricity. Kentucky is also the fourth largest producer of automobile in the United States. The Chevrolet Corvette, Cadillac XLR, Ford Explorer, Ford Super Duty truck, and the following Toyota vehicles: Camry, Avalon, Solara and Venza are all assembled here.

And of course the little roadster is on ''Free Parking'', since ''the Best things in life are still FREE'', including a smile. There is currently a price to pay for clean air, clean water and personal freedom. The top numbers on the dices equal seven as a symbol that we can still count our many blessings even when life has many unexpected turns.

-In the Monopoly ''Here and Now'' edition, the railways have been replaced by the four    
 largest airports in the US. The tokens have also been revamped. The Scottish Terrier has   
 been bumped by a Labradoodle, the boot by a New Balance sneaker, the car by a Toyota 
 Prius, there is also a large McDonald's fries, a Starbucks Coffee mug, a Motorola cell  
 phone and a laptop computer.
-Tokens from the Monopoly US ''Here and Now'' Edition were flown into space aboard  
 Space Shuttle Atlantis in 2007.

''Planes, Trains and Automobiles'' Invitational group show 
at the Elliott Fouts Gallery, Sacramento, CA, March 3- April 5, 2012.