Todd Stone has done what great artists have done over the centuries – simply looked out their windows over the city and painted what they saw.
What he has seen recently is the rebirth of a neighborhood once turned into ashes by terrorists. He has captured that dramatic transformation in his newest solo exhibit, the monthlong “Renewal,” running through Sept. 30 at the New York Culture Club at Oculus, the fantastic new transportation hub and shopping mall at the new World Trade Center.
A collection of more than 30 works in oil, watercolor and digital media portraying the 20-year rebuilding of downtown, the show is the culmination of the documentary Todd created as he followed the city’s move from destruction to resilience to recovery to renewal.
What Todd saw from the roof of his Lower Manhattan studio on Sept. 11, 2001, was death and devastation. He turned that dreadful, heart-wrenching experience into a series of paintings he called “Witness.”
Other series followed as he was granted the space to paint the city’s gradual rebirth from what he termed his “studio in the sky” from successively higher perches in the new World Trade Center buildings. From there he painted the city healing itself.
For Todd that path emerged from the horrific day when terrorists leveled the World Trade Center, stealing 2,996 lives from what he now calls “a sacred site,” and forever changing the lives of thousands more.
A native of Manhattan, Todd loves the city and had been painting his cityscapes since 1980. He was doing just that in 2001 from his studio in Tribeca, when he saw the planes attack, and climbed to his rooftop, saw the bodies fall, saw the buildings shrink into rubble.
After that he spent a year on a series of paintings he titled “Witness,” actually rubbing into them the ash that drifted through his windows.
“Initially, I was just trying to get the pain to stop,” he said. “I felt this enormous burden to get these images out.”
From that first dreadful and enduring burst of sadness, his work became what he considered “an elegy,” a poem of lamentation for the dead. Then on the 10th anniversary of 9/11 he revealed another series, “Downtown Rising: Studies in Resilience.”
Now, his mood has brightened as the city itself has undergone a rebirth. He focuses in this solo exhibition on the ever-changing skyline from Manhattan to Brooklyn, to New Jersey and New York Harbor.