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…”

Inspiration: Former Roommate Living Out Her (Super Cool) Dream

This blog is about a lot of things—creative writing, combining the left and right sides of the brain, trying to read/write about girl stuff without being ashamed, lawyering… at its core, however, it’s about a random dream.  With that, I’m dedicating this post to Erica Kiang, a former roommate of mine who is neither a writer nor lawyer, yet she nevertheless served as an inspiration for my attempt at noveling because she literally made her dream come true before my eyes.

Back in 2007, Erica and I were two of five roommates who lived together in NYC after  college, connected by a mutual friend.  In the midst of our time living together, Erica would casually mention that she wanted to open a store that sold clothes from around the world.  Eventually, she would move out of the apartment and I would move out of NYC and we would lose touch.

Fast forward two years, and our mutual friend tells me that Erica owns a store called Babel Fair in Nolita selling (surprise!) clothes from all over the world. Fast forward five more minutes, and I’m purchasing multiple dresses and using pictures of myself in them as my facebook pictures.  She’s written about in New York magazine, Time Out, she’s on NBC and all this other craziness (now she’s achieved the ultimate honor of being featured on this blog).  The point is Erica stopped “paying dues” when she was 25 (or 24), instead she’s literally living her dream!

Since this essentially a blog about a journey toward a personal goal/aspiration, I decided to use my journalism skills and ask Erica a little bit about her experience turning a dream into reality.  And since she agreed to answer my Qs, I should let you know that Babel Fair is located at 260 Elizabeth Street and sells some very unique, very cute stuff.  But anyway, here’s what she said…

Describe Babel Fair in one sentence.

Babel Fair is a boutique and showroom that carries a unique and constantly changing global assortment of international designers.

How did you go from telling your four roommates that you wanted to open a store selling clothes from all over the world, to actually doing it a couple of years later?

I think mostly passion. I loved every step of opening the store, from scouting locations, choosing designers, designing the store, etc., so I worked on it every free second I got. Weekends, nights, mornings—even during work at my other job—all of this time was spent obsessively doing research.

Tell me how your day to day life has changed since you worked at Ann Taylor back in 2007 or so.

Well for one, I feel like I never work. Of course I get stressed and have hard days but I never feel like I’m obligated to do anything or I’m just going through the motions, it’s all self-motivated. I’m working on things I love and choose to do. I think once you open a business, there’s so many other doors/opportunities that open up. So it’s an exciting time. Each day is never the same, and I love that. I never know what emails or phone calls I’m going to get.

Is there anything about opening a clothing store that is similar to trying to write a novel while working a law firm??

Similar to a novel? I think just commitment. You can’t really open a store or write a novel half-heartedly. I mean you can.. but it won’t be impactful. You have to follow through with well thought out plans. And also make sure you minimize the word document you’re working on when your boss walks by ; )

What advice do you have for people who are scared to pursue their childhood dreams?

Haha, I don’t know if I’m in the position to comment on following childhood dreams. But I think if you have a serious passion meaning it drives/motivates you and you know you’re good at it – pursue it. Do serious research, be knowledgeable and realistic. Passion is a gift I think, so if you have it you are already lucky. And preparation is key.

I know you love Sex and the City as much as I do, tell me why!

Oooh that was a secret! Okay fine. I love Sex and the City mainly because of the clothes. Who doesn’t? I might or might not have found a tulle ballerina skirt and wore it in high school…

I’ll admit that last question was kind of random, oh well.  Below is a pic of me (on the right) in a a dress I bought at Babel Fair.  Tia Mowry is on the left in a dress that was clearly sold in Babel Fair (whether she actually bought it there is unknown, and probably irrelevant).