1. The act of honoring the memory of or serving as a memorial to someone or something.
2. Something that honors or preserves the memory of another.
The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 4th edition Copyright © 2010 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Commemorations, we have many in U.S. history, such as:
- July 4, 1776 – Declaration of Independence.
- May 6, 1861 – President Abraham Lincoln declares a state of insurrection in the southern states, the beginning of the Civil War, ending April 9, 1865.
- June 1865 – Juneteenth, a nationally celebrated commemoration of the end of slavery.
- December 24, 1814 – United States and Britain sign the Treaty of Ghent, ending the War of 1812.
- February 2, 1848 – Mexico and the United States sign the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, ending the Mexican-American War, with the U.S. gaining what are now California, Nevada, Utah, and parts of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Wyoming.
- April 6, 1917 – The United States enters World War I on the side of the Allies, ending November 11, 1918.
- October 29, 1929 – The New York Stock Market crashes signaling the start of the Great Depression.
- December 7, 1941 – Japanese forces attack the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor bringing the U.S. into World War II, ending September 2, 1945 after the first atomic weapons were used by the U.S. on Japanese civilian populations a month earlier.
- June 25, 1950 – North Korea invades South Korea, starting the Korean War.
- November 1, 1955 – A Cold War conflict begins in Vietnam, the war ends on January 27 with a peace treaty.
- February 1, 1992 – Cold War officially ends when the United States and Russia sign a treaty.
- April 19, 1995 – The Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City is bombed by domestic terrorists.
- September 11, 2001 – Four airliners are hijacked and used as weapons as they are flown into the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon and a fourth plane crashes in southern Pennsylvania before reaching its presumed White House target in Washington, D.C.
- October 7, 2001 – Airstrikes begin in Afghanistan as part of a global War on Terrorism.
- March 20, 2003 – Iraq is invaded.
- August 29, 2005 – Hurricanes Katrina strikes the Louisiana coast region.
- And so many more leading to the present.
These events, of course, are but a few that receive some sort of national commemorative notice. More personal commemorations include Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, birthdays and wedding anniversaries, Christmas, Thanksgiving, Cinco de Mayo, Ramadan, Rosh Hashanah, and Kwanzaa. Some commemorations may be more whimsical, such as special days set aside for New Year’s (Chinese or otherwise), Groundhog’s Day, the super bowl, Valentine’s Day, Mardi Gras, Oscar night, St. Patrick’s Day, April Fool’s Day, and National Fruitcake Day.
Artists have always commemorated events—some offer accolades while others criticize our cultural preoccupation with conformity. September 11th now provides a platform for artistic expression. Sculptors have erected heroic-sized bronze statues, musicians have written and performed symphonies, and other artists have created plays, movies, novels, and poems, all inspired by the event.
A friend of mine recently said that after nine years, she has tired of the ubiquitous commemorative activities and fanfare that surround 9/11, although sympathetic to the victims and outraged by the warring aftermath. Although not a national holiday, it may in the next generation or two diminish into a historical date on the calendar without much emotional attachment, perhaps like the Ides of March or May Day are to most of today’s twenty-somethings.
Just as 9/11 has staked a claim in American history, other events will emerge to claim our attention and emotions. Several may be jubilant, like Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech during the Civil Rights era, and others will be tragic, like the wars and natural disasters noted above.
“Spontaneous Memorial,” the progressive 9/11 commemorative installation I began assembling in 2004 and exhibited annually since then, is shown this year at Gallery 54. The gallery is in my Kearns, Utah, studio building, itself a relic of World War II—a warehouse staging area. The works I chose to present are sparse and intimate in scale, in contrast to next year when the entire work with its many components will be, for the last time, installed at the Springville Museum of Art.
Below are a few examples of works on display: some are new and not yet professionally photographed for the “Portfolio” section of this website.
For more 9/11 images and information, please refer to my posts for March 2010 and September 2009 and to the “Portfolio” section where “Spontaneous Memorial” is featured.