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Donna Levinstone

9/11 Series

The smoke cloud that enveloped these people was created by a disaster. Yet, in my drawing a light emerges as a message from above—a spiritual guardian, guiding these souls to eternal peace. – Donna Levinstone

Grief and shock prevented Donna Levinstone from creating any new art for months after 9/11. She would visit her studio on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, where she had been when she first learned about the attacks, and simply sit. Her creative paralysis lifted at the end of 2001 when Levinstone was invited to participate in an exhibition of artwork mounted in response to the attacks. Departing from her usual practice of drawing serene landscapes inspired by nature, Levinstone began studying photographs of the plumes of dust emanating from the collapsed Twin Towers. She found a spiritual beauty in the dust clouds, seeing in them the souls of those who had been killed. Over the next few months, Levinstone created a series of pastels, many of them in shades of black, white, and gray. She turned to the color of fire and anger for Eternal Rest, on view here.

Donna Levinstone portrait

Donna Levinstone

American, b. 1955

Donna Levinstone’s pastel landscapes invite the viewer to reflect on the duality of permanence and transience. She often structures her images around dichotomies of tranquility and volatility, solidity and etherealness, and light and dark. Using handmade pastels, she renders landscapes with near-photographic realism and an impressionistic softening of detail. Levinstone is especially interested in depicting the sky. The tragic beauty of the smoke and dust clouds in the midst of 9/11 took on spiritual overtones for Levinstone, and she focused on that aspect in the series of pastels she created in late 2001 and 2002.

Interview With the Artist