The Connection Between Grief and Art: Remembering 9/11

freedom towerI read somewhere that in order to be a great artist, you had to have endured something. Struggled, been hit by adversity, grieved. I think we can all agree that those periods that are our most difficult, but they are also the most inspiring. I believe this is partly because they inevitably change us at our core and alter our perspective on the world; however, it is also because, in order to move forward, we have to figure out a way to express the pain. It is for these reasons, in my opinion, the best writers, artists, musicians, orators, etc. are the ones who allow themselves to be the most raw and honest. People connect to those who are willing to expose their vulnerabilities.

As a New Yorker, a former resident of the financial district, a current resident of DC, an American, and a human being, the significance of 9/11 definitely strikes a cord. I was a senior in high school the day of the attacks and, I could be wrong, but I feel like it was one of the situations where everyone either knew someone lost in the attacks or knew someone who knew someone, you know? It’s so horrible to think of all of the sadness that day. The loss of innocence when a child experiences grief is particularly disturbing.

In honor of this solemn day, below are some links to articles about the connection between grief and art. The first is from the New York Times 2 days after 9/11, and involves reflections from their various contributors on the relationship between art (in various forms) and grief. The second is from the Boston Globe and discusses some of the most revered artists in history, and how their genius came from a dark place.

The Expression of Grief and the Power of Art, New York Times, Sept. 13, 2001.

“Nothing provokes the artistic sensibility like grief. In the artist, events like those of Tuesday morning bring about a meeting of universal emotions and an individual will to unearth them, expose them, understand them and accept if not outlast them. In grief is a myriad of human terrors: the visceral blow that brings rage and outrage, the insidious settling in of pain and sadness; the concentric waves of anguish that continue through time. All of these have been evoked through the centuries with the power of great imaginations.”

When Grief Turns to Art, The Boston Globe

“Throughout history, romantic love has inspired nearly as many works of art as there have been artists. Grief has offered inspiration less often, though often enough for there to be standard forms for grieving artists to follow: elegy, threnody, dirge, requiem…”


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