Surviving Three Deadly American Tragedies Inspired This Sculptor's Art
When sculptor Christopher Saucedo set out to make sense of surviving three of major American tragedies—the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Hurricane Katrina, and Hurricane Sandy—he did so by channeling his grief into art.
Growing up in Brooklyn, New York, Saucedo and his brothers could see the World Trade Center in Manhattan from their family home, and his dad had taken them to see it being built in its early construction days. When terrorists attacked the Twin Towers, the sculptor’s youngest brother, Gregory, was among the 343 firefighters and paramedics who died in the line of duty.
“I packed my boots, my gloves, my respirator and some crowbars because I imagined I would be at the pit helping to find my brother," Saucedo told National Public Radio of the days after the attacks, when he went searching for Gregory. “He loved being a fireman.”
For his World Trade Center as a Cloud series, the artist decided to create blue—aiming to re-create the same blue as the New York sky that morning—papier-mâché rectangles out of layers of hand-pressed linens. In the hanging tapestry-like pieces, clouds that appear to be constructed in the shape of the Twin Towers float before the blue backdrop.
“We all remember the blue of the sky that day—that incredibly beautiful day against which all of these unbelievable things unfolded,” Russell Lord, the curator at the New Orleans Museum of Art, told NPR. The series was displayed in the New Orleans museum this summer and is now showing in the National September 11 Memorial & Museum.
Four years after the terrorist attacks, Saucedo was living in New Orleans when the levees broke, and he lost his home to flooding. To commemorate those who died during the storm, Saucedo recently constructed a memorial in the neighborhood where he lived with his family.
Devastated by the loss of their home, the sculptor and his wife moved to New York, but a second wave of disaster came when Hurricane Sandy hit in 2012, flooding his new house with five feet of water.
"After Hurricane Sandy, I really started to wonder if I was going to be forever put upon by forces beyond my control,” Saucedo said to NPR. “It was really like, 'Come on!' "
Following the catastrophe, the sculptor transformed misfortune into art by using the Red Cross blankets he and his neighbors were given, embroidering them into tapestries.
“If you have lemons, make lemonade,” he told NPR. “I had Red Cross blankets; I made some tapestries.”
Now, Saucedo teaches art and sculpture at Adelphi University in New York. His series September 11th, 2001 (please stop saying 9/11) is on display at the Charles P. Sifton Gallery in Brooklyn.