The Orange County Firefighter’s Museum in Montgomery will host a special art exhibit on Monday, September 11th from 9 am to 5 pm courtesy of Montgomery Fire Department’s ex-Fire Chief Jim Ferguson. The exhibit features original drawings, paintings, collages and a commemorative poem by Karen E. Gersch, a visual artist and circus performer who resides in Montgomery.
Having witnessed the 2001 collapse of the Twin Towers in NYC, Karen spent most of that day distributing water and paper towels to all the people who staggered up Broadway, most covered in ashes and soot; most silent – in understandable states of shock. The firehouse around the corner from her East Village studio, which had always opened its doors to the neighborhood, lost 10 of their 14 firefighters that day. The 4-story building on Great Jones St. that housed Co. 33, Ladder 9 was considered a Beaux Arts masterpiece. “They all knew my dog and always greeted me when we passed” Karen recalled. That horrific loss on a personal note was what inspired the very first of her “Still Smoldering” pieces: a painting of a small desolate boy sitting curbside, a toy fire engine by his side and the ominous shadow of a plane overhead visible on the sidewalk. She gave the large painting to Co. 33.
“Art, for me, remains a powerful means of chronicling and coming to terms with that which terrifies, confuses, grieves or challenges us. This exhibit is actually part of a larger series I’ve created called “The Ruins of War”.
A Fine Arts Graduate of Pratt Institute in NY, Karen originally supported herself as an illustrator and graphic artist for such companies as Henson Associates and Warner Bros. Records. A tomboy who grew up in rural Rockland County, (when it was still chiefly fruit orchards, not shopping malls) she had a childhood love of circus as well as art and after her Pratt education, trained with Russian circus performers. She became a circus acrobat herself, touring with one-ring and three-ring shows both here and abroad. Several photos of her are included in the 9/11 exhibit, as she was part of the WTC’s Opening Ceremonies and appeared there with the Big Apple Circus in September of 2000 – exactly one year before the towers fell.
For more information about Karen and her work, please visit her website: www.artbykeg.info or her Facebook page: Art by Karen E. Gersch. For more information on the museum and education center, please visit their website: ocfm.us or the Facebook page: Orange County Firefighters Museum. The museum is located at 141 Clinton Street in the Village of Montgomery and is free to the public. Karen will be part of the Orange County Arts Council’s Open Studio Tour in October; opening the gallery of her new home on Clinton St. to the public. The artist will be present at the Orange County Firemen’s Museum on September 11th from 10 till 4 pm, and her artwork will be displayed on September 12th from 1 to 4 pm.