I live amongst these structures. How could I not be influenced? – Michael Mulhern, discussing the influence of the Twin Towers on his artwork
Fifteen months after 9/11, Michael Mulhern moved back into his ninth-floor loft at 125 Cedar Street, one block south of the World Trade Center. Until September 11, 2001, Mulhern had been able to look out his studio windows and see office workers at their desks in the South Tower. That morning, his windows shattered and smoke and debris filled his home and workplace of more than 30 years. He pulled on the respirator and goggles that he typically wore while working with aluminum paint. This equipment came in handy as the air quality worsened. Late that afternoon, Mulhern evacuated his studio wearing his safety equipment as he walked north, away from the disaster site.
Faced with cleaning his studio in the months that followed, Mulhern noticed that World Trade Center ash had settled on his painter’s palette. He used that paint when he resumed work on the series of paintings he had begun in summer 2001. Eerily, he had already called the series Ash Road, but the title took on a new significance after 9/11.
Mulhern began the paintings of Ash Road before the attacks and then altered the works after he was personally affected by the dust and smoke that filled his apartment on September 11. The resulting series incorporates ash from the collapsed Twin Towers, and juxtaposes a palette of light gray against bolder swirls of black and aluminum brushstrokes.
Michael Mulhern is known for his large monochromatic works on stressed paper or raw canvas. He enlivens the surfaces of his paintings with metallic pigments and distressed textures by daubing, dripping, and dissolving his paints. Born in Paisley, Scotland, Mulhern immigrated to the United States as a young man. For many years he lived and worked in a loft on Cedar Street near the World Trade Center. His view of the Twin Towers occasionally influenced his work.