• Kyodo


A Japanese artist's painting transformed by the Sept. 11 terror attacks in 2001 has been displayed at a memorial museum built at ground zero in New York, with the artist hoping his work will help heal the victims and their families.

"Stars of the Forest: Elegy for 9/11," an acrylic painting by New York-based artist Naoto Nakagawa, shows dozens of star-shaped moss against a blue background with white, yellow and orange lights permeating the surface, representing the victims of the 2001 plane attacks on the World Trade Center's twin towers.

"This work is not an expression of anger like (Pablo) Picasso's Guernica. Rather than anger, I have expressed healing," the 77-year-old artist said.

Nakagawa started painting the work a week before the terror attacks after being inspired by the moss he had seen in a forest along the Hudson River and hoped to capture the image of "a glorious moment in nature's drama."

But the tragedy affected him and his work in an unexpected way. The Kobe native, who has lived in New York since 1962, saw the towers go up, only to witness them crash down decades later in 2001, destroying many lives along with them.

On Sept. 11, 2001, he felt his studio in the city's Tribeca area shake for a second when he was mixing paints for the day’s work. Then from the roof he saw the second plane hit the South Tower. His son, who came to tell him to flee, was covered in white dust, he recalled.

Nakagawa said he felt as if he was "driven by the victims, their families and people around the world" in working on the piece and used an expressionistic style that he normally would not.

The painting was completed after three months of work. The star-shaped moss arranged in horizontal bands of color evoked the American flag and the shining stars now represent the victims.

Nearly 3,000 people, including 24 Japanese nationals, were killed in the serial acts of terror at three locations — the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

"I love this country. … There is no other country in the world that has the energy to change when something is wrong," Nakagawa said.

The work measuring 1.9 meters in length and 2.7 meters in width was purchased by an art collector, but was later donated to the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, which opened at ground zero in May 2014. It has been displayed at the facility since May.

Amy Weinstein, the museum's vice president of collections and oral history, said Nakagawa's background as a New Yorker is important.

"I drew this hoping to heal the victims and their families, and I will be happy if people feel that," said the Japanese artist.

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