Banners carry imprint of tragedy
Faces, names of 9/11 victims memorialized
CHARLES LEWIS/Buffalo News
Tatana Kellner's "Requiem for September 11th" is a series of 44 white, sheer fabric banners hung in two columns from the skylighted atrium of the Market Arcade in downtown Buffalo.
By TOM BUCKHAM
News Staff Reporter
For several months after Sept. 11, New York City artist Tatana Kellner toiled to reassemble on silk screen the images of victims she had clipped from the New York Times series, "Portraits of Grief." It was her way of "doing something - anything" about the tragedy.
But it was not until later, during a discussion with CEPA Gallery about a retrospective of her work scheduled to open here Sept. 20, that she decided what to do with all of those faces and names. "She wanted to do a public project for Buffalo," recalled Lawrence Brose, CEPA executive director.
The result is "Requiem for September 11th," a series of 44 white, sheer fabric banners hung in two columns from the skylighted atrium of the Market Arcade, where the photographic arts gallery has its offices and exhibition spaces. The exhibition will be formally unveiled at noon Wednesday during a ceremony commemorating the first anniversary of the terrorist attacks.
Viewed from the Main Street entrance, the 161/2-foot columns resemble the World Trade Center - soaring above the Market Arcade floor in the same way the Twin Towers loomed over lower Manhattan. Faces of the dead and missing - mostly shown smiling in photos their families provided for the Times series - look out over the space in ghostly, abstract form.
Hundreds of such images were hand-printed on the material, along with the headlines that appeared over each brief biography - "Looking Forward to Baby," "Crazy for His Grandmother," "Lover of Travel."
There are many blank spaces as well, representing victims whose pictures were not available. Half of one banner is devoted to undocumented aliens who died in the World Trade Center and may never be identified.
"Not only are there no pictures, there are no names," Kellner said.
The effect of "Requiem for September 11th" is monumental "yet ephemeral," Brose observed. "It carries a lot of weight."
As she read the sketches in the Times, Kellner cried and laughed and was saddened by the thought of "so many lives cut short." She was "struck by the youth of the victims and their apparent normalcy. These were not captains of industry, but ordinary people aspiring to the good life."
Kellner, who supervised Sunday's installation of "Requiem," thinks their stories struck an inner chord because she is the daughter of Holocaust survivors - victims of another monstrous evil perpetrated by the Nazis on the Jews during World War II. "I think a lot about the fragility of life," she said.
In other hands, Brose said, the project might have become "much more commercial" - and less powerful. Kellner co-founded the Women's Studio Workshop in the Catskills community of Rosendale after immigrating from Czechoslovakia in 1969, and has since turned out large format, photo-based works - in a variety of media - dealing with remembrance and loss. She has a master's degree in fine arts from the Rochester Institute of Technology.
Those unfamiliar with her art who want to know more after seeing "Requiem" can step into CEPA's nine Market Arcade galleries, starting with "Curtain Up!" on Sept. 20, to view "Assemblage and Ritual: the Work of Tatana Kellner."
The "mid-career retrospective" will be guest-curated by Anne Ellegood, associate curator of New York's New Museum of Contemporary Art, and will run through Dec. 20.