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From the Tower

an artist reflects on his time in the world trade center



In the mixed-media work he called “Premonition,” Litchfield-based artist Donald Bracken painted a thumbnail-sized World Trade Center beneath a column of pale sky nearly five feet tall and a mere four inches wide. A plumb bob affixed to the painting dangles directly over the minuscule towers like the sword of Damocles.

Bracken, a soft-spoken artist with curly, chin-length hair and a wiry build, created the piece in a studio on the 91st floor of the World Trade Center—in 1997. That year, as part of the Plein Air Project, an artists’ residency program organized by the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, he used a vacant office floor in the North Tower of the World Trade Center as studio space for three months. “The project’s mission was to document the ever-changing skyline of Manhattan,” Bracken explains. He shakes his head—what is there to say about the irony of that? 
“Premonition” was not the only prescient piece Bracken made during his stint in the clouds. Another, “World on Fire,” shows a corner of an empty room where two walls of narrow windows meet. The tall, skinny windows—now horrifically familiar—are portals of yellow flame. “I was not the only artist who made paintings like this,” Bracken says. Several such prophetic images, including these two by Bracken, appear in Site Matters, a book featuring work from the project. It is dedicated to the late Michael Richards, an artist who was working on the 92nd floor the morning of September 11, 2001.

By that time, Bracken was living in upstate New York, but he had visited Battery Park in lower Manhattan on September 10—the day before that fateful Tuesday. “When a friend called to tell me about the attacks, my first response was to hurl handfuls of red oxide paint onto the Mylar [polyester sheet] that I had hung on my windows on the 91st floor.” He found the vast panorama from the windows overwhelming, so he had covered some of them up.

Bracken subsequently moved to Connecticut and started working in dirt—specifically, the ancient floodplain soil of the Connecticut River Valley. “The dirt paintings depict farmland and are made of the land, created on the site,” he explains. In 2007 the bucolic subject—and the dirt—changed dramatically, when Bracken acquired debris from Ground Zero. Bracken mixed paint with the acrid-smelling dirt, which contained electrifying fragments—shards of porcelain sinks, a hair barrette, a strand of beaded jewelry. One of the most affecting works in this series is “Torn Earth,” a pair of diagonally aligned squares gouged into the surface with an axe, a crowbar, and other tools Bracken imagined recovery workers would have wielded. “I threw paint on the panel and shoveled ash on top of that and beat on the whole thing with an axe,” he says. That disturbing energy still charges the ruined surface.

Bracken’s post-9/11 work culminates in a series of large pieces, using hollow-core doors the same size as the windows in the towers. The largest of these so far, “Heaven and Earth” (80 by 162 inches), recently shown at the New Arts Gallery, comprises nine moveable panels, each a door. The surface is composed of thick dabs of bisque-colored clay riven with hundreds of cracks, like a raku pot. It takes a moment for the image to crystallize out of the monochromatic texture. Then, it materializes—a ghostly relief of the New York cityscape from the North Tower’s 91st floor, dwarfed by an enormity of sky.

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January 2019

Celebrating its 50th anniversary, the Hartford Boat Show (HBS50) features the newest boats on the market including center consoles, fishing boats, luxury cruisers, deck and pontoon boats, sport and...

Cost: $12 in advance online, $14 at the door, $10 Senior/Military one day pass

Where:
Expo Center at Mohegan Sun
1 Mohegan Sun Blvd
Uncasville, CT  06382
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Sponsor: Connecticut Marine Trades Association
Telephone: 860-767-2645
Contact Name: Kathleen Burns
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Zachary Zaitzeff is a painter living in the Hudson Valley who has incorporated his extensive world travel, including his 2011 summit of Mount Everest, into his artwork. Zachary spent 2018 studying...

Cost: free

Where:
RT Facts Gallery
8 Old Barns Rd
Kent, CT  06757
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Sponsor: RT Facts
Telephone: 860-927-1700
Contact Name: Natalie Randall
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Zachary Zaitzeff is a painter living in the Hudson Valley who has incorporated his extensive world travel, including his 2011 summit of Mount Everest, into his artwork. Zachary spent 2018 studying...

Cost: free

Where:
RT Facts Gallery
8 Old Barns Rd
Kent, CT  06757
View map »


Sponsor: RT Facts
Telephone: 860-927-1700
Contact Name: Natalie Randall
Website »

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Zachary Zaitzeff is a painter living in the Hudson Valley who has incorporated his extensive world travel, including his 2011 summit of Mount Everest, into his artwork. Zachary spent 2018 studying...

Cost: free

Where:
RT Facts Gallery
8 Old Barns Rd
Kent, CT  06757
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Sponsor: RT Facts
Telephone: 860-927-1700
Contact Name: Natalie Randall
Website »

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Join the area’s leading investment and financial professionals at the CFA Society Hartford’s Annual Forecast Dinner. The group’s premier networking event of the year will be...

Cost: Individual Member seats are $90 before 1/8, $110 for non-members

Where:
Connecticut Convention Center
100 Columbus Blvd.
Hartford, CT  06103
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Sponsor: CFA Society Hartford
Telephone: 860-604-1411
Contact Name: Rebecca Taylor
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Curious about meditation? Come experience an hour of guided meditation and sound healing aimed to help you release tension, sleep better, and cultivate overall happiness. No prior experience...

Cost: 15.00

Where:
New Morning Market
129 Main St North
Woodbury, CT  06798
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Sponsor: New Morning Market
Telephone: 203-263-4868
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Zachary Zaitzeff is a painter living in the Hudson Valley who has incorporated his extensive world travel, including his 2011 summit of Mount Everest, into his artwork. Zachary spent 2018 studying...

Cost: free

Where:
RT Facts Gallery
8 Old Barns Rd
Kent, CT  06757
View map »


Sponsor: RT Facts
Telephone: 860-927-1700
Contact Name: Natalie Randall
Website »

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Join New Morning Market’s new knitting club! We’re crafting wearable items for Safe Haven of Greater Waterbury and welcome all levels to join! Instructors will be on-hand for beginners. Yarn,...

Cost: Free - registration requested

Where:
New Morning Market
129 Main St North
Woodbury, CT  06798
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Sponsor: New Morning Market
Telephone: 203-263-4868
Website »

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Zachary Zaitzeff is a painter living in the Hudson Valley who has incorporated his extensive world travel, including his 2011 summit of Mount Everest, into his artwork. Zachary spent 2018 studying...

Cost: free

Where:
RT Facts Gallery
8 Old Barns Rd
Kent, CT  06757
View map »


Sponsor: RT Facts
Telephone: 860-927-1700
Contact Name: Natalie Randall
Website »

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Doctor of Oriental Medicine, Jampa Mackenzie Stewart of Valley Spirit and Wellness Center in Washington Depot, CT presents TaiChi & Meditation an Introduction.  Join us for a...

Cost: Free and open to the public

Where:
Gunn Memorial Library
5 Wykeham Road
Washington, CT  06793
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Sponsor: Gunn Memorial Library
Telephone: 860-868-7586
Contact Name: Margaret Ferguson

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Zachary Zaitzeff is a painter living in the Hudson Valley who has incorporated his extensive world travel, including his 2011 summit of Mount Everest, into his artwork. Zachary spent 2018 studying...

Cost: free

Where:
RT Facts Gallery
8 Old Barns Rd
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View map »


Sponsor: RT Facts
Telephone: 860-927-1700
Contact Name: Natalie Randall
Website »

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Calling all fans of Scottish food and Diana Galbaldon’s Outlander series. Don your tartan, make like Jamie’s clan motto and be ready! You’re invited to an amazing Outlander...

Cost: 100.00

Where:
Hunt Hill Farm
44 Upland Road
New Milford, CT  06776
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Telephone: 860-355-0300
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Zachary Zaitzeff is a painter living in the Hudson Valley who has incorporated his extensive world travel, including his 2011 summit of Mount Everest, into his artwork. Zachary spent 2018 studying...

Cost: free

Where:
RT Facts Gallery
8 Old Barns Rd
Kent, CT  06757
View map »


Sponsor: RT Facts
Telephone: 860-927-1700
Contact Name: Natalie Randall
Website »

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Join us for a very special evening of music from these four accomplished singer songwriters: David Ray, Mike Latini, Dave Goldenberg, George Mallas.  

Cost: 20.00

Where:
Hunt Hill Farm
44 Upland Road
New Milford, CT  06776
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Telephone: 860-355-0300
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Saturday, Jan. 26 Mini Golf Family Day in the Stacks at Wilton Library, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Wilton Library will hold its 2nd mini golf fundraising event. There will be food (each paid admission will...

Cost: $5

Where:
Wilton Library
137 Old Ridgefield Road
Wilton, CT  06897
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Sponsor: Wilton Library
Telephone: 203-762-3950
Contact Name: Wilton Library
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Join us for another incredible evening of music featuring four local singer songwriters performing original music! Doors open at 7pm in New Morning’s handicapped accessible Community Room on the...

Cost: Free

Where:
New Morning Market
129 Main St North
Woodbury, CT  06798
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Sponsor: New Morning Market
Telephone: 203-263-4868
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