NEW YORK -- Anyone looking to find this city's most amazing art studio can stop right now.
It is, without a doubt, the 48th floor of 7 World Trade Center. Here, near the top of this 52-story office building, with sweeping views of the former site of the Twin Towers, the construction of 1 World Trade Center and all of the rest of Manhattan, the developer Larry Silverstein has allowed a group of artists to work free of charge until the space is leased to a tenant.
The bare-floored studio, completely empty and open, with fireproofed beams still visible and floor-to-ceiling windows, has been something of a home to Todd Stone and the other artists who have worked there. Now Stone's paintings are the subject of an exhibition, "Witness || Downtown Rising," on view until September 12 but open by invitation only.
The paintings themselves tell the story of a decade at the World Trade Center. Stone, who lives in Tribeca, had a view of the Twin Towers out his window and painted the buildings as they burned on September 11, 2001. He kept painting in the months and years to come, and the show is a remarkable collection of images showing recovery efforts, memorial tributes, the building of 7 World Trade Center and ultimately the building of 1 World Trade Center itself.
It was only after Stone sent a portfolio of his series "Seven Rising," chronicling the construction of 7 World Trade Center, that Silverstein invited him to paint from the building. That move transformed Stone's work. In part, that transformation was just physical: the paintings he has worked on from the 48th floor depict the view from above, rather than from below. But the real change is that his view of the construction of the World Trade Center Memorial and the new office tower rising is a decidedly encouraging one.
"I've drawn great personal strength from working up here," Stone told The Huffington Post. "Strength from the builders, from the planners, from just watching as this site gets reimagined. I really feel that I'm now in touch with the strength of this city and the resilience of its spirit."
His paintings make that clear, even if at times they also show the slowness with which parts of the site have been constructed. In the middle of the show, between paintings of the destruction of the Twin Towers and the paintings made from the 48th floor, is a strong series showing the rapid construction of 7 World Trade Center, which amazingly opened in 2006. And yet, even as that building rises, the site of the Twin Towers is shown as empty, with the so-called Freedom Tower still just an idea.
Silverstein, whose patronage of art is notable, said by phone that the paintings and the buildings have a symbiotic relationship.
"They each make the other more powerful," he added. "Todd has labored over these paintings and I think he's just done a terrific job."
The developer noted that art had played a hugely important role in the city's catharsis after 9/11. And it continues to figure prominently in Silverstein's buildings: 7 World Trade Center itself has a major installation by Jenny Holzer in its lobby and the red, stainless-steel "Balloon Flower" by Jeff Koons on its plaza.
For now, though, as Silverstein prepares to lease the 48th floor and turn the art studio into offices, the much smaller pieces by Stone are just as powerful. They are, as the artist puts it, "works of elegy, works of witness."
Watch a video interview with Stone:
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