The outpouring of poetry, photographs, film, writing, and painting resulting from the attacks of 9-11 is one of the largest artistic records of an historic event ever. Perhaps only the Holocaust has provoked a greater creative response. The need to express the gamut of emotions people felt on that day was, and is, overwhelming. For New York tattooist/artist Spider Webb, drawing obsessively over the months that followed last year's destruction was his outlet. "I picked up a pencil because I didn't know what else to do," he explained. "Between trying to help and cursing at the TV, I began drawing tattoo flash about this event and for this event. I was consciously thinking in terms of tattoos because I knew people would need them."
Whether a testament to his rate of productivity or the depth of his despair, Spider produced far more than just a few sheets of flash. "After two months I had thousands of sketches all aver the house. It was time to clean them up and re-draw some to get them tight. I was always planning to put them together as a book, but I didn't know how to lay them out. Then I noticed all the newspapers I had lying around and the impact of their headlines. So I took different drawings and laid them out on a page with a headline as a caption."
The end result far transcends simple tattoo flash. Each of the fifty pieces is a work of art unto itself using the hieroglyphics of tattoo language to convey the stories and emotions of that day and the days that followed.
These visual testaments are passionate and genuine, raw and evocative, much like the City itself. But Webb is insistent that this work belongs as much to skin art as to fine art. 'People were at a loss as to what to do after 9-11. Tattoo parlors were packed—hey, if you wanna fight, you gotta put on your war paint! You know, for 20 years I fought to make tattooing legal in New York and it finally happened (in 1997). And then, just before 9-11, this city council-person tried to ban it again through zoning law changes. Tattoos are so necessary, especially in a city like New York. I think we've all learned the value of tattoos in the past year.
Sketching wasn't Webbs only outlet. "I did a lot of sculpture, and in between drawings, when I was getting a little too crazy, I would make a 9-11 tattoo machine. I make one-of-a-kind tattoo machines and I did some with actual pieces of the Trade Center inside them."
The events of 9-11 remain fresh in the psyches New Yorkers. Each morning we look at the changed skyline and relive that day: the shock and then deep sadness; the fear and the bravery it inspired; the hope that faded with each passing hour; smoke, dust, and office papers that blanketed the city; the lingering scent of death and destruction; all of it replays again and again. Spider recalls how he tried to put a "time limit" on his drawings and by default, his emotions. 'All flags were at half mast after that day and I said to myself, when the flags go back to full mast I'll turn the TV off and be done with this. But I wasn't. I don't think I'm done by any stretch of the imagination."
All of the originals have been beautifully framed by Joe DeJessa of Against The Wall in Pennsylvania. Spider hopes galleries in other U.S. cities will have an interest in these pieces—already a number of European cities are arranging shows—and there are plans for a book followed by a series of offset lithographs. In the meantime, rare first run prints are for sale by contacting Spider Webb