|Cyclamens and Swords Publishing|
|Publishing fine poetry, prose and Art|
BFA, Illustration, PhiladelphiaCollege of Art, 1956
MFA, Painting, University of Arizona, 1969
George Harkins began his career in art as a free lance illustrator, when he worked with the top advertising agencies and publications in New York City. He turned to painting full time over 25 years ago. His watercolors and works in other media have been exhibited in numerous one-man and group exhibitions in New York City and throughout the USA. His work is included in many private, corporate, and museum collections. He is currently represented by the Jane Haslem Gallery in Washington, D.C. and by the Gail Severn Gallery in Sun Valley, Idaho. He works in New York City, where he lives with his wife, Shirley Sherak, who is an Architect; and their cat Barney.
The following works are copyright © 2011. All rights reserved. No distribution or reprinting in any form whatsoever without written permission from the artist.
AN ARTIST'S WITNESS TO THE WORLD TRADE CENTER ATTACK
A Visual Record of September 11, 2001 and Its Aftermath. While subject of these six art works of a full series of 75 begins on 9/11, its genesis was a month earlier in July 2001 during a glorious summer week when my thirteen- year old grandson from Texas came to see New York City for the first time and to visit with my wife, Shirley Sherak, and me. I took him to my favorite places, starting with the view from the top of the World Trade Center. As we approached the WTC located barely a thousand feet from our home, we came upon the large cement planter-barriers on the sidewalk in front of the entrance. I mentioned to Randy that they were there as a result of an attack in 1993 when a terrorist had driven a bomb-laden truck into the parking garage and set it off by remote control. His alarm at my statement surprised me. I had thought of the bombing as a long past criminal event and regretted that I upset him. Like most of us, I was oblivious to the holy war aspect of the situation. I thought of it as the work of a religious zealot, who had stood trial and was now in jail. It seemed an almost forgotten unique, ugly episode far removed from that beautiful summer day – except for the cement planters.
We went to the TKTS office located in the South Tower to buy discounted theater tickets and, as usual, there was a long line of people waiting for the office to open. I sat on the floor with some visitors from out of town and we chatted about the city while Randy did what a thirteen year old does: he roamed around taking pictures and buying ice cream. After purchasing our tickets, we took the express elevator to the top of the tower and really enjoyed ourselves on the observation deck. We were able to see the Statue of Liberty, the Atlantic Ocean beyond the Verrazano Bridge, the Empire State Building and Manhattan all the way to the Bronx. On our way back to the elevators, Randy wanted to stop at the souvenir shop to purchase gifts for his brother and sister. The lady who helped him with his selection was very pleasant and patient. I thought about her and the others who worked in the Twin Towers a few weeks later as clouds of black smoke engulfed the tops of the towers. Throughout the day of the attack, a thousand feet away, I photographed the drama before me from the roof of our Tribeca building and down on the streets below. In the aftermath, as an unexpected witness to history, I walked the neighborhood streets and circled the site every day, sometimes alone, sometimes with Shirley getting as close as was permitted, to experience, observe and record the activity and atmosphere.
The attack has never been far from my mind in the months and years since 9/11 and I wanted to leave a record for my children and grandchildren. After experimenting with different media, I decided to use pen and ink and watercolor to create smaller, intimate artworks. I found this technique suited to expressing what I had witnessed. The notion of having the works tell a story -- a visual diary, if you will since I’ve included only events and scenes that I witnessed -- surfaced only after most of these pieces were completed. It also became apparent that an accompanying text would help explain the everyday experiences of New Yorkers caught in proximity to Ground Zero. When it was clear that what was taking place was actually an attack and an act of war, we knew our lives had been changed, but not how much or in what way.
For us, 9/11 is never past: we live with its after-effects: uncertainty and coping with the fear of another attack. In the decade that has passed the feeling that we lost a way of life that is gone forever has deepened. Still, the city of that glorious July week that my grandson spent with us will always be the city I remember fondly – the fountains and flowers, the clever mimes in the parks, the people enjoying the warm days of summer. As New Yorkers, we choose to be here and live in this wonderful city. The banners we hung out of our windows proclaimed the slogan coined by a neighbor, “Here to Stay.”
And we are.