Gathering Around Old Glory by Andy Thomas

Gathering Around Old Glory by Andy Thomas

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This painting was from the scene of the church fence right outside of Ground Zero, in New York. 9-11 brought these tokens, notes and letters. The church housed volunteers, firemen and others for some sleep.

Limited Edition paper print approximately 19.5″ x 23″

This summer, during a day trip to NYC, my family and I visited Ground Zero. It was on our list of things to see and I really didn't think it would matter to me if we made it there or not. But, looking out across the vast crater, I was struck by the enormity of the destruction and a most peculiar flash of anger swept through me. It felt like a loudmouth punk had shoved me in the chest in the halls of junior high school.

After seeing Ground Zero we walked north and within a block we came across a beautiful stone church whose wrought iron fence had been used to hang memorial items in the period of grief following 9-ll.

I believe the original hangings were posters or photos that families put up in hopes of finding news of a lost loved one. Then there were mementos from volunteers or agencies that helped in rescue efforts. Finally, of course, virtually any visitor (American or foreign) wanted to leave something maybe a button from the Lions Club of a small town in Mississippi, for instance.

On this long stretch of fence was this short section I have painted. I didn’t see the beauty in it at the time but my wife Dina did and was compelled to take this picture. We were overwhelmed when we saw this print. As I painted, I began to realize that the dozens of hands that placed the items in this section had created a nearly perfect composition, with light and dark masses plus bits of detail and contrast to make the eye move. This was all accomplished without obscuring the central design of the flag. How did this happen? Did each contributor, as they went to place a ribbon, or whatever they had, find a spot that looked good with everything else? Maybe they placed it one spot and thought it seemed wrong so they moved it.

I believe that each person who added something placed great importance on the act. They couldn’t bring those who died back to life and they couldn’t help in any tangible way to heal or rebuild. They could, however, hang a button or leave a T-shirt with a message. And they did that very well.

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