April 02, 2004
CONTACT: Mike Stepanovich, 661/664-2456 or mstepanovich@csub.edu

Joyce Kohl, an art professor at California State University, Bakersfield, is a finalist in a competition sponsored by Montgomery County, Pa., to create a sculpture memorializing the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack.

Kohl is one of six artists in the running to create a sculpture to be displayed in front of the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, northwest of Philadelphia.

Kohl envisions a bronze gong suspended from a twisted steel beam from the World Trade Center, cast with imprints of children's handprints and a wall of tiles depicting their memories of the events of Sept. 11. She envisions her sculpture as a way both to remember the events of Sept. 11 and as a way to heal and look toward the future.

"When I saw what the Vietnam Memorial did in a sense of healing the country, I wanted to take this in a direction that would be healing instead of feeding the paranoia and fear that it seems has come out of 9/11,” she said. As a finalist, Kohl was awarded $1,000 and given an end-of-March deadline to create a scale model of her proposed 27-foot-tall structure. The county is expected to announce the winning artist soon, and plans to unveil the completed sculpture on Sept. 11.

The six finalists were selected from 35 entries that all looked for ways to incorporate a “twisted and deformed” steel I-beam that came from the World Trade Center's North Tower. The panel that selected the finalists was also impressed with Kohl's emphasis on collaborating with children and the community at large, according to published reports.

In a recent interview with the Pasadena Star-News, Kohl said: “I think that giving kids a voice will have a strong impact. It seems like kids often have a cleaner perspective on things.”

As an artist, she said that her main goal, both with this project, and at large, is to get people to rethink their ideas about time and artifacts.

"We are not the end of a continuum of time,” she said. "I wanted to incorporate a sense of old and new at the same time because I want people to think about the artifacts we leave behind, which are what somebody someday is going to use to try to figure out what we're all about.” She proposes that her sculpture feature a steel framework of three stacked 9-foot-tall rectangular tiers somewhat “reminiscent of the North Tower.”

In the bottom tier, she envisions working with children in Montgomery County to create ceramic tile panels featuring enlarged drawings depicting the effect of Sept. 11 on their lives. For the middle tier, she said she plans to suspend the bent I- beam that was once part of the World Trade Center.

In the top tier, she wants to hang a bronze or iron gong cast with handprints of community members ranging from small children to the elderly.

"I see the hands as a symbol of hope and goodwill, and of the need to work together to build a safe and stronger future,” she said.