Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Fortune’s Wheel, In Memory of September 11

It is August of 1997 and I am returning from an exhibition of my paintings in Paris. It is the fulfillment of a dream and I am heady, making great plans the way one does when still young and unscathed. I couldn’t have painted this at that particular moment because I was brimming with joy.

I call it Fortune’s Wheel. It is about sudden and violent change, the kind of event where one is irrevocably transformed. It is a self-portrait in symbols; a cathartic detachment from what immediately becomes the past. The jester hangs upside down by one foot, echoing the Hanged man of the Tarot. Like breadcrumbs leading out of the woods, three cards, the Tower, Devil, and Three of Swords leave a trail of clues. An ominous black veil obscures the exhibition poster yoking the jester to the wheel where once fresh roses ascend. Flameless candle, well-worn and treasured map of France, postcard, and coins are strewn. The hourglass sand is running out, the duality of light bewilders, disorder rules.

Fast forward to 2001. It is a crisp and beautifully sunny morning in September, emblem of early autumn in New England. I am working with a handful of students studying anatomy, looking out the window, thinking we really should be out landscape painting. It is shortly before 9:00. The first plane is flying into the towers.

We are changed। We were still young and unscathed. We were heady, brimming with joy, and could not have imagined in advance of that particular moment, this altered world.

Fortune’s Wheel by Melody Phaneuf, 40 x 48 Oil Painting

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