An Installation
by Barbara Siegel

September 3 - October 26, 2002

"Missing" is my response to the lives lost in the attack on the World Trade Center. After September 11th, my neighborhood, which is eight blocks from the Trade Center, was soon papered with "missing" posters from people still hopeful of finding their friends and family members alive. As I encountered these images on the street, day after day, I was always struck and deeply moved by the combination of ineffable sadness and irrepressible optimism which they represented.

To make the piece, I photographed hundreds of "missing" posters over a period of many weeks and selected about 60 representing the diversity of people lost in this disaster. They come from all ethnic, economic and age groups. They are brokers, elevator operators, and firemen. This same diversity is what I value most about New York City. I then transferred the photographic images individually onto a medium of handmade paper, cloth and wax. My husband, Gary Schwartz, had just written a poem about the WTC attack in which vultures (os urubus in Portuguese) were the central metaphor. My installation (covering both the wall and the floor) is very abstractly configured to suggest both a bird—a vulture but also a phoenix—and an airplane. I've worked the text of the poem itself into the body of the installation.

For years, I've collected ex votos and Mexican retablo paintings. These small paintings with text on metal, starkly and powerfully represent incidents of suffering and redemption in the lives of ordinary people. The images of the missing people in my own piece and the installation as a whole is a form of retablo—a memorial to tragedy and loss, but also to our shared belief in the need to survive and affirm life.

—Barbara Siegel