It's hard to imagine an artist's response to the Sept. 11 tragedies more touching than that of Gwendolyn Evans Caldwell, a painter in Pennsylvania. Ms. Caldwell has offered to paint, at no charge, the portraits of all the thousands of victims as gifts to their families.
"I don't care how long it takes me," even many years, "I want to do it," Ms. Caldwell said in a phone conversation. Already, seven families have taken her up on her offer. An art supply company has agreed to provide the art paper free of charge, and another company may underwrite the cost of mailing back the finished portraits.
Within hours of watching on TV as the World Trade Center collapsed, Caldwell, a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design who owns her own art studio, found herself working on a new piece, a work she called "9/11." Although non-representational, it included elements suggesting scattered business papers and firemen at work.
The painting helped her express her "shock," she says. But a few days later, she produced "Hope." It showed people walking over Brooklyn Bridge, which to her symbolized "going on to a new place" in their lives.
The events of Sept. 11, she says, remind us that art is "much more than something pretty on the wall." It's an effort "to make meaning" where none seems present.
She asks that family members send her a color photo (not the original) and a couple of sentences about the person. Her address is Shawnee Falls Studio, P.O. Box 51, Shawnee-on-Delaware, PA 18356.
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