Tragedy Salved by Tradition

Tragedy Salved by Tradition

Spherical rendition captures expanse of WTC views obliterated by terrorists

On view at the New-York Historical Society is “New York: in the Light of Memory,” a beautifully rendered painting of the views from what was the top floor of the South Tower of the World Trade Center. Christopher Evans executed his painting on a sphere, showing all the viewpoints one once had from the Trade Center tower. The work is a meticulously detailed, technically impressive painting. Within the long genre of landscape painting, this spherical rendition is an innovation.

Evans says that he was struck that the view from the WTC building was also lost after the September 11 tragedy. Evans worked from a sequence of photographs he had taken a few years earlier and began assembling a collage of view fragments. Pictures from newspapers and magazines, satellite images downloaded from the Internet, postcards, and street maps were also used as visual references to provide a thorough perspective.

The colors of the painting capture the golden light that bathes the metropolitan area each sunset.

Much of today’s art seems concerned with the concept of “art for art’s sake,” or art about art. Mr. Evans’ piece, however, is a throwback to an earlier tradition of realistically rendered landscape painting and not about the language of other contemporary painting.

Though completely abstract, formal, or conceptual art can move the viewer in many ways, the seamless circling of Evans’s lofty viewpoints, now lost, gives this painting a spiritual charge. In the real time it takes to view this work from all sides, the horror of September 11 is temporarily transcended. It’s almost as though the vantage point has not been obliterated, but rather, elevated heavenward.

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