"Missing" is my response to the lives lost in the attack on the World
Trade Center. After September 11th, my neighborhood, which is eight blocks
from the Trade Center, was soon papered with "missing" posters from people
still hopeful of finding their friends and family members alive. As I
encountered these images on the street, day after day, I was always struck
and deeply moved by the combination of ineffable sadness and irrepressible
optimism which they represented.
To make the piece, I photographed hundreds of "missing" posters
over a period of many weeks and selected about 60 representing the diversity
of people lost in this disaster. They come from all ethnic, economic and
age groups. They are brokers, elevator operators, and firemen. This same
diversity is what I value most about New York City. I then transferred
the photographic images individually onto a medium of handmade paper,
cloth and wax. My husband, Gary Schwartz, had just written a poem
about the WTC attack in which vultures (os urubus in Portuguese)
were the central metaphor. My installation (covering both the wall and
the floor) is very abstractly configured to suggest both a birda
vulture but also a phoenixand an airplane. I've worked the text
of the poem itself into the body of the installation.
For years, I've collected ex votos and Mexican retablo paintings.
These small paintings with text on metal, starkly and powerfully represent
incidents of suffering and redemption in the lives of ordinary people.
The images of the missing people in my own piece and the installation
as a whole is a form of retabloa memorial to tragedy and loss, but
also to our shared belief in the need to survive and affirm life.