2003-02-15 / Columnists

On The Beach… With Beverly Baxter

"Heaven Over Rockaway": A Tribute To Life

  For local artist Patrick Clark, being selected as the commissioned artist to design the memorial for Tribute Park is a very profound honor. Having lived directly across the street from the site for 18 years, this sliver of land that juts out into the bay has been his landscape. It had also been Eric Allen's. Eric, who had been Patrick's landlord, was one of the firefighters who perished in the World Trade Center attack. "It is a particularly personal honor for me to be able to honor him this way", states Patrick, who has been chosen by the Chamber of Commerce to design and erect the memorial. "I love this community so much; and to be given this sacred reason to do what I do as an artist is a tremendous honor for me."

"Heaven Over Rockaway" is based on the Dalle de Verre, a 1940's French stained glass style dome. A faceting style, that means, "chunks of glass." The pieces of glass are hand-faceted and broken into shape. The result is a mosaic that is set in a thin-layered cement base. The structure itself is a 12' diameter arched dome which will sit on top of a stone gazebo with columns over a 12' diameter Tiffany-style stained glass mosaic floor. The effect will be a cascade of shimmering light.

The floor design will be the Big Navigator's Star pointing toward truth North. In the mosaic floor will be the names of the neighborhoods where those who died had lived. Also in the center of the mosaic, will be a statement, which reads, "We will never forget our loved ones who died in the World Trade Center and our heroes who sought to save them September 11, 2001. Rockaway will always remember."

The use of color is purposefully significant. Shades of blue and white represent the sky. Using Austrian crystals and stars, the names of those who perished will be carved into the center of each star. When light hits it, the crystals and glass will send streams of color, prisms, and rainbows cascading down to the ground.

As in all forms of art, the structure is very much its meaning. The structure is a spiritual metaphor representing those who died, as well as their presence in the heavens. The transformation of pure light from the sun as it hits the glass and crystals remind us of their living presence in our midst. The use of a dome design is symbolic of a "Chuppa", which, when one stands under it, it represents our union in love with those who've passed. The dome is also symbolic of a Baldachin. The aspect of the transformation of light into the real pressence of those who passed.

The elements of weather also breathe an experience. At nighttime, the dome will shimmer like a jewel, as well as be a beacon to remind us of their lives. As the glittering light provided by the sun reminds us of the brilliance of their lives, the effect of mist or fog will be colors of blue and white with touches of red and gold that will jettison up into the sky. When it rains, the water splashing down from around the pillars will represent our sorrow.

According to Patrick, "The design is a two-fold tribute. It is, like many memorials, a structure to look at; yet all aspects of the design render a living experience." To accomplish and articulate that is srt. To evoke an experience of their lives is truly what a living memorial is all about.

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