Courage On Display
local sculptor honors victims of 9/11
Photograph by Amber S. Clark
In 2001, Ridgefield’s foundation was shaken with the September 11 terrorist attacks. Three local families particularly feel that loss, having had relatives killed that day. This September marks a special milestone—the ten-year anniversary—and with it the installation of Ridgefield’s own 9/11 Memorial.
Native son Chris Curnan, a sculptor and artist, was contacted over a year ago by September 11 Memorial Committee member Steve Zemo about the idea of designing a monument. Curnan took on the project and has created a fitting memorial to honor those who lost their lives.
Curnan’s art has been a passion for a long time and his works have been displayed in a number of local galleries. Using organic materials—metal, cloth, paper, even leaves—Curnan turns something ordinary into something extraordinary, a process he calls “seeing beyond the object.” Color Coated (2010) features a collage of dried paint skins; Key 54 (2010) is a wall installation that features a recycled piano. Curnan’s love for concept, and his experimentation with technique and effect is well known among many local artists and art-lovers. “I am very excited about the 9/11 Memorial project,” Curnan says, and he is especially excited to be the local mastermind behind the monument. “It is very meaningful for me.”
Curnan’s forte is working with steel and metal materials. “This is my medium. It’s large-scale,” he explains. Curnan got into sculpture after falling in love with the materials’ textures and properties. “When I worked in the construction business, I kept the oil tanks and discarded metals,” he says, using them to erect impressive, gargantuan pieces. He cites commissioned works such as the 25-foot-high metal Holiday Tree (2010) in Stratford and a massive fabricated steel tank named Emergence (2007) that is part of the New Paltz Unison’s Sculpture Walk.
The 9/11 Memorial, however, is more than just ordinary recycled material. The central element of the structure is a steel beam that was once part of the World Trade Center. Surrounding the beam will be a garden, representing the plane that went down in Pennsylvania. A walkway in the shape of a pentagon will wrap around it all. Three benches will ring the memorial, each standing for one of the three Ridgefield casualties.
The memorial, Curnan hopes, will be a meaningful juxtaposition between the tranquility of nature and the strength of the original beam and “will create a peaceful place for us all to remember.” As a symbol of Ridgefield, the memorial will remind us of the courage of our community. “Our nation was built on standing strong and together, fighting for freedom,” Curnan says. “My hopes are that this monument will reflect this.”
A formal ceremony will take place on September 11, 6:30 p.m., at the Ridgefield Recreation Center, 195 Danbury Rd., with town officials, clergy, choirs, and other members of the community.