Artfelt Expression

‘After 9-11’ artists paint pride, hope on canvas

By Kurt Begalka

The Northwest Herald, January 18, 2002

Artist Nancy Steinmeyer came up with the idea for the "After 9-ll" exhibit within days of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. She simply could not shake the images.

"I was so taken aback by the destruction and how awful it was. The other thing, I was very interested in what people were clinging to," Steinmeyer said. "People were putting up the flag, a graphic element. People were reaching for the arts. Artists were speaking and people who weren't artists were grabbing onto this and needing it."

She solicited work from artists in October. By the Dec. 6 deadline, 18 area artists replied with about 30 pieces ranging from watercolors to ceramics. Nearly all of the artists are donating a percentage of any sales to the United Way's Sept. 11 fund.

The free "After 9-11" exhibit continues through Feb. 24 at the Old Courthouse Arts Center.

Sarah Hahne, 43, of Bull Valley, entered three pieces. "Twin Towers" depicts the towers using profiles of women.

"I don't think anyone has really gotten over it," Hahne said. "I would hope that people (who attend the show) would feel there is hope. Good things come out of every situation, no matter how bad. I think the women of Afghanistan benefited from this; the children, too."

Steinmeyer, using a three-dimensional painting technique, submitted two pieces in acrylic. "Light on America" features a candle and flag. "Please Guide Us" depicts a burning north tower and the south tower, just after impact.

Suspended over the background painting is a screen with the image of Uncle Sam praying.

"In the original plan I was going to put the traditional Uncle Sam pointing his finger in revenge and retribution," Steinmeyer wrote about the painting. "During the three weeks it took me to paint the burning towers I learned more about the Afghani people and their plight and poverty.

"By the time I was ready for the over-painting of Uncle Sam, I couldn't paint revenge. So I changed it to Uncle Sam praying for guidance."

Steinmeyer, 45, a fine arts graduate from Western Illinois University, moved to Woodstock six years ago. In her 25 years as a professional artist, she has done hundreds of pieces.

Nothing ever touched her like the terrorist attacks.

She put her husband, Doug Wachob, on a plane to Utah the day before. His phone call notified Steinmeyer of the horrendous attacks.

"They (terrorists) traumatized the country by allowing us to watch it," Steinmeyer said. "Then we spent an entire week watching the coverage. We saw it and saw it."

Snug within her basement studio, she is in the process of painting her fourth work in the wake of the terrorist attack. This still unnamed painting bears an overlay of Osama bin Laden's face in front of the World Trade Center towers.

"This show came out of the basic pain and frustration of 'Oh my God! What can I do,' " Steinmeyer said. "I have people who aren't artists saying, 'Wow, I don't know how to express myself.' Hopefully, they will see something in the show they can connect with."


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