Susanna Heller's Ghost Tower is a major acquisition for Oakville Galleries' permanent collection and is being premiered in this exhibition together with eight other notable works on loan from very generous collectors.
Ghost Tower is a colossal painting (almost 4 metres high) depicting the chaos following the events of 9/11. When the planes hit the Twin Towers in New York City, architecture gained a new significance in the eyes of the world, and the international public at large became suddenly aware of the symbolic, political, economic and social importance of architecture. This acquisition goes hand in hand with Oakville Galleries's 2005 exhibition programme that explores the physical and psychic territory of architecture.
“I never learned so much about blue until after 9/11. It was so hard to work on capturing the perfect deep blue sky from the fall of 2001…You're painting the oppressiveness… You're painting deep space."
– Susanna Heller
In 1998, New York-based Susanna Heller was awarded a 15-month residency in a studio on the 91st floor of the World Trade Center. From this dizzying bird's-eye view she was able to look north along the Hudson River, as well as down the length of the Tower onto the streets of Manhattan. This was a view she was to explore many times and in many different ways, investigating the flux and energy of the city and its relationships of space and time, motion and light. Following the events of 9/11 there was a hole in Heller's landscape as she walked to work, as well as an emptiness in her heart. She walked to Manhattan everyday from her home in Brooklyn. Prior to the destruction of the Towers they had always been her beacon and the focus of her journey into the city centre. And even after their destruction, she still saw them. In her mind's eye they were there like spectres in the cityscape; ghosts that refused to be laid to rest.
The works in the exhibition are about the rupture and tenuousness of the post 9/11 world. They are deeply moving and terrifying—maelstroms of colour and line—that convey the feeling of intense loss and horror felt that September day. Heller leads us through topographies and stories all intertwined with personal experiences of public space. Here, Manhattan reveals its grounds and unfolds the physical and psychological dimensions that reshaped the political aspects of the post 9/11 world.
The exhibition is supported by the Corporation of the Town of Oakville, the Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council. Oakville Galleries acknowledges the generous sponsorship of Accenture, the invaluable contribution of Susanna Heller herself, the benevolence of the collectors who agreed to lend their works, and Olga Korper Gallery for assistance with this project.