nancy l. purington
iowa city , iowa | interviewed 2-19-2002
"November 10, 2001"
photo by Ina Loewenberg
(click image for larger view)
copyright © 2001 Nancy L. Purington | All Rights Reserved
For days, all I did was sit there and watch television. And I would listen to everything I could. And then that's when I began to realize the familiarity of this was the experience of growing up in the Cold War, and the expectations that this was going to happen. So that feeling of being attacked in your own countrythe reality of itwas horrifying. It was so huge.
I haven't done any work since then at all. I mean, I would say now, five months later, like today, I just gessoed the canvas. Those have been waiting to be gessoed since then.
I'd gone to New York and done research this summer in the Morgan Library. So I started working on this series when I came back, right away. And the last one, the eighth one, was unfinished because I had had to remove an image. Those paintings were finished except for that one when that occurred.
You don't feel safe anywhere. You feel vulnerable. So then, what is the point of doing artwork? I never finished that piece, and it kept me in this sort of stuck moment. One day, I just decided that that was the way that composition was, and I just dated it. That was just the day I decided that I had no more to say about this series for nowthis was it. And somebody said to me, "That's September 11th isn't it?" And then it sort of dawned on me that, yeah, that really was it.
I think by that time, the body count and the relationship that we formed independently with the people who had died in these events was so presentall the pictures of the peopleall these people that were killed here in the United States. So, I guess, it didn't occur to me to think that it was any more of an atrocity than they had committed on their own people or that they'd committed on us. And I realized that that's just a capsule in time, this sort of tit for tat. Because now, beyond that, what we're understanding about the nature of this conflict is that it is ancient, and it doesn't show off the best of our abilities as human beings. It never did; it still doesn't.
I'm glad to have that opportunity to be a human being who has enough freedom to think some thoughts of my own. I don't see that happening for women in most of those countries. But, that Enron stuff doesn't make me very proud of what this freedom has also accepted, and then that goes all the way down to how we just don't treat each other right here. People aren't treated equally, and it's disintegrated the fabric of accountability. We aren't responsible to one another anymore. There's not enough respect. I don't know what the answer is, but I certainly am happy to have been born in the United States of America in the twentieth century, as a woman. I know that things aren't equal probably anywhere, but I have had more freedoms that I would have had at any other time and place as a woman.
Nancy L. Purington was born in Davenport, Iowa in 1947. She grew up in Davenport and Princeton, Iowa, near the Mississippi River. She is the oldest of three children.
She earned a B.F.A. in painting/printmaking from the Kansas City Art Institute, a K-12 Art Education Certificate from Park College, and her M.F.A. from the University of Iowa, Iowa City. She has taught in a variety of school and college settings, and has been an art consultant for both public and private entities. She is currently the executive director of Arts Iowa City.
She has two sons and lives in Iowa City with her husband.
STATEMENT FROM MY JOURNAL to Jane Robinette
Sent: Friday, October 05, 2001 8:45 AM
Subject: RE: Iowa Artists response to terrorism?
I have not been compelled to work in the studio at all since the WTC events. Maybe other artists feel this way. I witnessed the 'high art of devastation', performed in real time, as I sat with my morning coffee watching the news. Now, I am immersed in the study of the culture who produced these acts. I think that I have just been able to get my mind around the concept of terrorism, which is a subject that I had not deeply understood before now. I am engaged in this research with all of my senses, my mind, body and spirit.
This experience has been a collective process. The media is working together globally. I witness reports from Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Turkistan and Iran. As a former professor of textile arts at the UI, I researched and presented the histories and processes of textile arts and design from this region of the earth. My heart is heavy to think that this was a place where humankind recently produced some of the world's most profoundly beautiful expressions of the human soul. I see the remnants of this artform wrapped around the tiny bodies of a few children who are captured in the spotlight of our investigation. I am left to wonder whether of not this culture will ever celebrate beauty again. And it hurts my feelings to think that our hearts won't be able to respond to that frequency of pattern and color once dyed and woven into an expression distilled from the essence of their daily life and spirit.
I realizethat this same region of the world can produce a terrifying form of art wherever they focus their aim. It is murder and suicide.
Like everyone else, I am sending and receiving more e-mails and connecting
more deeply with the friends that I have loved throughout my lifetime.
In that way, I am making an effort to fortify my sense of community.
And I think that I can paint, too. I just need time to process
this shift. I need mourning time. I need to bring about my own transformation
in consciousness though the private process of mourning.
to Merrie Snell
January 8, 2002
From my journal, concerning painting titled: NOVEMBER 10, 2001
Today I realized that this work in progress is finished. I am calling it NOVEMBER 10, 2001. This is the day when I know that the direction of this series, SUMMER INTERLUDE, has been profoundly altered by acts of devastation in our world. It captures my state of shock, which is a result from the attack on NYC.
This past summer, I spent a week in New York City studying late 15th c., Flemish, illuminated manuscripts at the Morgan Library. While I was in NYC, I contacted a downtown gallery, and was invited to create this series to show there in the late fall of 2001. I may still send them, but it has been more important to me to hold onto these works and to use them for reflection. The series, which began in a state of timelessness, is now captured in real time. The content is much different from the original intention. This series contains an expanded dimension of realism.