Out of the Ruins
A New York Record

Jean Holabird



“September 26, 2001, we were allowed to go home. We had fled reluctantly, with only the cats, late on the afternoon of the 11th. The Towers were down; a third building was lighting up with fire two blocks to the south. The intervening two weeks had been an agonizing ordeal; first trying to ascertain whether we still had a home at all, then begging for access to retrieve the prescriptions, checkbooks, and watercolors abandoned in our flight. We wondered at how fortunate we were to have survived so relatively unscathed.

For almost a month, we were in the Red Zone, fenced in with the smoldering ruins of the World Trade Center complex, and although I was never in what is called Ground Zero, its harrowing and hallowed influence was all around.

As what I now see was an instinctive coping device, I drew. To me the buildings were still there, horribly changed, true, but as intrinsically a part of my daily life as they had been intact. I clung to the ruins because they seemed more familiar than the new and disorienting vistas and light patterns opening up all around the neighborhood I had lived in for twenty-seven years.

When the last vestiges of the North Tower were dismantled, my need to draw the site ended.  

What had begun as a chronicle of destruction became, at last, an odyssey toward acceptance.”

A snippet from a short piece with Morry Alter on CBS News New York.
See the whole clip on Youtube

Digital book created and published by John Maas for Jean Holabird

While this page is meant to direct traffic to the Apple Books store,
you can still find used hard and soft cover versions where used books are sold.

Read the Reviews

A book of ~70 watercolors done in close proximity to the ruins of the World Trade Center during the autumn of 2001.

Forget the photographs and the videos, all of which we’ve seen and will see a thousand times over and beyond for countless Sept. 11s into the future. What’s striking is the lack, at least so far, of powerful artistic evocations of the Trade Center attack, the towers collapse, the rubble and the ruin and the hole at the heart of a New York neighborhood, not to mention so many human hearts, Perhaps Sept. 11 will have to wait decades, or centuries, for its “Guernica” or equivalent, for the monuments and memorials that will lift it into the realm of the metaphysical. For the moment, however, we have Out of the Ruins-A New York Record..
..But just when you think the effort could sink into bathos, you come across a picture like the one drawn from Broadway and Maiden Lane: leaning building pockmarked with broken windows in the background, the twisted metal of a ruined tower in the center, and in the foreground, a plain black and white sign that reads “Odd Job".

Painting from the Red Zone,  Washington Post Book World, Sept. 8-14, 2002

In the face of the numerous books about September 11th that inspire more fear, doubt, and sadness, Out of the Ruins is both reflective and hopeful.

Lower Manhattan Through The Eyes Of A New York Artist, Elle, Sept. 11, 2002

Returning to her apartment on Sept. 26, she found herself fenced in with the ruins in an area that was called the Red Zone, and she began to draw "as a coping device." The result: beautiful, evocative watercolors of the ruins in Downtown Manhattan paired with classic poets also inspired by ruins Wordsworth, Milton, Shelley, Dante and the like.

Book Reviews, Entertainment Today, Sept. 11 Remembered, R. Hunter Garcia. Sept.12, 2002

..these small, delicate paintings uncover an almost otherworldly beauty in the twisted steel. "What had begun as a chronicle of destruction became, at last, an odyssey toward acceptance," Holabird writes.

Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Sept.9, 2002

After the Twin Towers collapsed, she took sketches of Ground Zero's twisted metal, cranes and American flags, turning them into delicate watercolors almost childlike in their rendering of the new and devastated landscape.

Publishers Weekly • July 15, 2002