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September 11, 2001

Innocence in Search of Experience

 Acrylic, 36" x 48"

The night of September 10, I worked in my studio. Occasionally, across several years, I had returned to the theme of American Holidays to inspire me and to give a focus to my work. I finally summoned the courage to start a tribute painting to the Fourth of July. I had some reference photos and some compositional sketches that I had drawn and saved. The picture was to be a young boy leaving home with his trusty dog; the flag, waving in the wind, had become furled around the flag pole. I spent that day drawing in the composition on my canvas, and that night, while I should have slept, I painted my vision in my head.

The morning of September 11, I saw the terrible events on the television. I had visited the World Trade Center several times. I would take the Path Train from New Jersey to Manhattan and exit at the WTC. It was a large, modern structure, and yet it had an atmosphere of hospitality. The courtyard was always full of visitors.

For several hours, that morning, I was too stunned to do anything, and then finally I went out to my studio, to lose myself in my work. When I opened the studio door and saw the canvas, I was stunned. It is a matter of interpretation, but as I looked at the flag it now appeared to be at half-mast, rather than furled. My young boy wasn’t just going exploring, but rather entering a new, dangerous world. I envisioned a mother behind the screen door, separated away from her son. A television set plays the horrors of the event in the window. The animals are aware of each other and their adversarial roles, and the plants are in-memoriam, weeping willows, lilies, and others bursting like fireworks.

As I look back at this painting, I see things that I might would like to change, but I cannot. It is an honest document of feeling about a horrible historical event.

New Millennium Kids

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New Millennium Kids

 Oil on Linen, 36" x 48"

After 9-11 and Innocence in Search of Experience, I was interested in the fact that my world had changed, but for young children this would be the only world they know.  I felt that although their activities would be the same as past generations, there was something special about documenting their lives.  

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New Millennium Kids

 Oil Sketch, 16" x 20"

I started by making oil sketches in Terra Rosa on warm grounds.  The effect was like The after-image that is seen after staring into the sun on a bright summer day.  It is a traditional underpainting technique, which can be the beginning steps in creating a painting. I liked the idea of a beginning painting technique, the beginning of a new millennium, the beginning of a new world, and the beginning of young lives.

As I work on the series, I hope to see the work develop from sketches to more completed works.  Paintings of full color that record a new and beautiful world. 


-- Ray M. Hershberger


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The Tap Dancer

Oil Sketch, 16" x 20"


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