By MIKE LEE
The union will hold a special opening at 5:30 p.m. on Sept. 12 in the First Floor Gallery for the stone lithographic work of pioneer firefighter and retired FDNY officer Brenda Berkman, to honor the memory of the thousands of heroes who gave their lives and survivors who now cope with debilitating illnesses in the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, on Sept. 11, 2001.
Berkman, who broke barriers by becoming the first woman firefighter in FDNY history, was a FDNY fire officer who was a first responder on 9/11 and was survivor and witness of that terrible day, when hundreds of her colleagues lost their lives.
Since 2008, Berkman began working with stone lithographs as an artistic medium. Two years later, she started working on 9/11 lithographs and the World Trade Center. She also organized a collaborative art project with 13 other artists based on a self-portrait she created evoking the rebuilding of the World Trade Center on the tenth anniversary of the attacks.
For nearly a decade, Berkman led tours for the 9/11 Family Tribute Center.
During the experience, she found inspiration for her art. In her artist’s statement, she wrote, “I watched the new World Trade center start to rise. I began to be fascinated by that new building—I began to be fascinated by the building; I liked the design of it far better than the original Twin Towers. As glass went in, I could see the reflections of the clouds on the building.”
This eventually led to the series, “Thirty-Six Views of One World Trade Center,” which will be on display at union headquarters in Manhattan throughout September. The series—featuring different views of the new building–was inspired by prints by Japanese lithograph artists such as Hiroshige and Hokusai, as well as the French artist Henri Riviere, best known for his series on the Eiffel Tower.
“Since 9/11, I have looked for ways to honor those who were lost on that day, as well as to try to help other communities in the United States and abroad that have suffered catastrophic losses from both natural and man-made disasters,” Berkman said. “These lithographs document the rise of One World Trade Center and include workers and first responders as part of the images. I thank District Council 37 for the opportunity to show them.”
Berkman created these dynamic, poignant images with a technique called stone lithography.
The technique, as Berkman describes it, involves drawing the image in reverse on a piece of fine-grained limestone. Once that process is completed, Berkman said that she covers the drawing with Arabic gum and acid to bind it to the top of the stone. Afterward, she inks the image and runs it through a press, transferring the image to paper.
Local 1549’s Lee Clarke, special assistant to President Eddie Rodriguez and former director of DC 37’s Safety and Health Dept., organized the show and arranged Berkman’s series to be exhibited at union headquarters with the help of Assistant Director Molly Charboneau of the DC 37 Communications Dept.
On the day of the exhibit’s opening, DC 37 will hold a ceremony in the morning to honor the four members of the union who perished on 9/11 and the many others survivors who have either passed away or continue to struggle with illnesses today.
The gallery will be open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and on Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. The show ends on Tuesday, September 27.
After the close of the exhibit, “Thirty-Six Views of One World Trade Center” will be part of the permanent collection at the 9/11 Memorial Museum.