The shoes we shall take
Clinton Schwartz poses by his sculpture, "The shoes we shall take," commemorating the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

HOHENFELS, Germany -- Clinton Schwartz was only 5 years old and living in Washington D.C., when the tragedies of 9/11 took place. Eleven years later, he has finally been able to exorcise the demons of that day through a work of art that speaks to the heartbreak and hope that those events have meant to him and our nation.

"He spent the first two or three months after 9/11 building big towers and crashing into them with airplanes, over and over and over," said Kirstin Reed, Schwartz' mother. "It's been a deep wound, and when he started focusing on this piece, it became an all encompassing 24-7 until it was out, but it was a real exorcism I think."

The sculpture consists of a chair straddling a pile of debris and topped with a pair of shoes labeled "Hope" and "Future." The chair is wrapped with 35 pages of singed, stained paper bearing the names of all 2,977 victims of the attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and those on United Airlines Flight 93.

"The chair represents the fact that we are supported by the heroism of that day. They're American heroes, and they support our future and our hopes, and we should take that and move forward with that," Schwartz said.

"Underneath are scraps of metal, stuff you might find from the wreckage, and laid out on red velvet are the shoes. The shoes are supposed to signify the ones America must fill after the attacks," he added.

Schwartz said he'd been wanting to do something representing his feelings about 9/11 for years, and finally decided what he would create for the 2nd Annual Celebration of the Arts, the art showcase that Schwartz initiated last year through his Schwartz Foundation for the Fine Arts and the Hohenfels Community and Spouses Club.

With his family moving to Norway later this month, Schwartz realized he couldn't take the sculpture with him, and opted to put it up for sale at the art show.

"One of the vendors, Amber Mitchell, was sitting across from my piece and she had lost her aunt in the twin towers. I told her the situation that I was going to get rid of it because no one was taking it that day. She kind of freaked out a little and said this is a really great piece," Schwartz explained.

Mitchell's grandmother works at the Metropolitan Museum in New York City, and through her contacts, Mitchell is working on placing the piece in a library in the United States. While nothing has been decided yet, Mitchell said the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum has shown the most interest.

"I really think the Bush Library is the best," admitted Reed. "I mean, he was President at that time, it would be perfect."

Hohenfels Middle High School art teacher, Michelle Mihanovich-Franz, watched Clinton create the sculpture over four months at the HMHS art studio.

"Art tells a story, and Clinton's piece speaks to the viewer," she said. "His childhood memory of 9/11 has many chapters of this story contained within his installation piece and it is a story that he holds dear and honors through a visual piece wherein his art helps to remind the viewer to never forget."

Nicole Biddinger, who saw photographs of the sculpture of the Schwartz Foundation's Facebook page, said the sculpture was especially touching to her as both her aunt and uncle worked at the Pentagon during the 9/11 attacks. In fact, her uncle worked in the wing that was hit and had left his office only two minutes before the plane crash.

"Though I was young at the time, I still remember the fear and heartbreak associated with that day as my parents anxiously sat by the phone, waiting for the lines to work again and hoping for a call to come through," Biddinger said. "I think your project perfectly captures the mentality of our country as we began to head into the future with a sense of hope for a brighter tomorrow and an opportunity to rebuild the walls that had been shattered by the overwhelming scarring emotions and pain while always remembering the sacrifices of the individuals who lost their lives that day."

Schwartz is obviously pleased that the sculpture might find a permanent home, but he said the real satisfaction for him is in knowing that the work is touching people.

"Artists don't just make something for themselves alone, but it's for other people to feel as well," he explained. "I feel I was successful with that piece because someone else felt with me."

Page last updated Tue June 26th, 2012 at 00:00