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Commentary by Mimi Gross
Mimi Gross, artist. This piece was written for the website which accompanies the exhibition "Too Much Bliss: Twenty Years of Granary Books" Smith College Museum of Art (November 23, 2005- February 19, 2006).

On the day and night of 9/ 11, I went out to draw the people, cars, and everything going on in the dark streets. On Church Street I found a TV crew with lights and hung around there where I could see my sketchbook. 

The next day and night further downtown in the middle of the chaos, the police were pushing me to "move on" while I was drawing. A TV crew from MSNBC recognized me from the night before. They sent the police away and ushered me behind the barricade reserved for the world journalist pool. While reporting, the journalists stood on a milk box, so that the burning Building #7 was clearly in the rear of the TV image. Journalists from each network took turns every hour or so to update news to the rest of the world. With all the cameras around, the novelty of having a documenting artist drawing with pen and pad was encouraged by the TV crews. I was interested in the unheralded heroes: the fire fighters, the medics, the ministers, the dogs. There was endless traffic of every imaginable vehicle—fire engine, ambulance, freezer truck, police car, garbage truck—all entering and exiting at the one gate.

By the middle of October I stopped drawing in the streets. The city contracts began. The debris was getting trucked out, the structural remains were beginning to be dismantled, and thousands of tourists wandered around looking for Ground Zero.
At first, I made black-and-white copies of the drawings. I inverted them so that the lines were white and the background black, so the contrast was more dramatic. I faxed the images to friends to share my experiences.

In late September, I heard Charles Bernstein read at the Zinc Bar. He read about his own impressions and experiences during and after 9/ 11. I was impressed that he wrote personally and universally. Everyone in the audience felt our own vulnerabilities in the way he described them. Charles and I talked about the possibility of combining our impressions. The drawings and different versions of the text were scanned, and made into a CD for the Robin Hood Fund (which was giving contributions to families of the victims at the time). Later, Steve Clay showed an interest in making a book.

Much later, we had a great collaborative moment with all of the inverted prints spread out on the floor. Charles and I edited them together, putting them into a chronology. After selecting one of Charles’s texts, he matched his lines with the drawings. I put the drawings up in my studio with the words typed out under them, and Steve and Charles came to see the layout of the book. We discussed size, format, types of printing process (linocut, lithography, etching, and finally, silkscreen), and format for the writing. I started to color some of the inverted drawings, which was challenging. By limiting the colors I wanted to evoke the chaotic intensity of night time. Kathy Keuhn coordinated the production of the book. We worked well together and her contributions are equally collaborative.  

The amazing warmth of New Yorkers in the weeks after 9/ 11 will be remembered by all of us who experienced it.  The neighborhood, blocked off at Canal Street, was mainly in a blackout, the air indescribably acrid, bottled water piled on side walks. During that time we lived with suspense, war, history, and a singular sense of caution.

Granary Books 168 Mercer Street, 2nd floor New York, NY 10012 USAtel 212 337 9979fax 212 337 9774info@granarybooks.com

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