disbelieving and helpless,
on that savage day.
People we love
helpless and in disbelief. – Poem by Eric Fischl
Eric Fischl experienced the attacks of September 11, 2001, including images of those who fell or jumped from the Twin Towers, through the news media from his home on eastern Long Island. He felt an urgent responsibility to use his art to help people make sense of what had happened that day. Filled with grief, Fischl created Tumbling Woman as a gesture of respect and compassion for those who had fallen and with a heartfelt desire to bring people together after the tragedy. Expressing the weight of his anguish, he cast the first version of this sculpture in bronze. As his grief evolved, he returned to the same subject matter, using visually lighter materials such as glass and acrylic.
Tumbling Woman spurred public dialogue about the appropriateness of using a human figure in this manner when it was first installed a year after the attacks on the lower concourse of Rockefeller Center. The sculpture was removed from public view after only a few days. Responding to criticism, the artist noted that the sculpture was “a sincere expression of deepest sympathy for the vulnerability of the human condition, both specifically towards the victims of September 11 and towards humanity in general.
Since 2001, Fischl has created several versions of Tumbling Woman, varying in medium and size. He extended the left arm, recast the sculpture as a smaller more feminized figure and explored other mediums, including glass and acrylic. These lighter materials represent the evolution of his grief process, from heavy bronze in 2002 to glass in 2006.
Inspired by his upbringing in suburban Long Island, Eric Fischl creates art that explores undercurrents of American life. Primarily a painter, he began to experiment with sculpture in the late 1980s. Fischl became interested in the relationship of his sculptural process to memory, especially in the way touch may unlock memories that the mind is otherwise unable to access. After the 9/11 attacks, Fischl felt a responsibility to address the tragedy through his work and turned to sculpture, creating Tumbling Woman.