9/11 commemorative mural on display at YDS during September

Three years ago Yale Divinity School student Gerald Facciani ’13 M.Div. and his wife, Karen, obtained a 60-foot mural painted in honor of victims of the 9/11 tragedy by the late American Expressionist artist Gregory Etchison.

MuralEver since, the mammoth mural has been in storage at the Facciani homes, in Henderson, NV and Manchester, MD. Until now, that is. The acquisition proved to be prescient, as the painting became a perfect way for YDS to participate in the University’s tenth anniversary commemoration of the tragic events that unfolded on Sept. 11, 2001.  The Faccianis arranged to have the mural shipped up from Maryland, and it now hangs eloquently in YDS’s Old Common Room, where it is on public display Sept. 6-30.

Entitled “The Day,” the mural recalls the overpowering emotions of the tragedy through Etchison’s distinctive way of working the canvas—the use of unconventional color systems and deliberate distortions of form as a way to express personal and social concerns, developed with spontaneous gestures and on-the-spot creation.  Accompanying the mural is a DVD showing Etchison at work on the painting, making observations as he paints.

"For Greg Etchison, the mural represented the culmination of his life's work, a final salute to his own mortality, and his soulful stretch for a small sliver of immortality,” said Jerry Facciani, a second-career student who founded and later sold an employee benefit consulting/actuarial firm.  “When Greg died, my wife, Karen, and I were determined not to have his powerful message lost forever.  We registered the mural with The Artist's Registry at the National 9-11 Memorial Museum in New York City and commissioned the construction of a web site to communicate Greg's message.

“However, the mural needed an appropriate 10-year-anniversary exhibition venue, and the Divinity School seemed to be that place. I approached Dean Attridge, who immediately came up with the idea of the Old Common Room.  The rest, as they say, is history."

During September the mural can be viewed Monday-Friday, 11:30 – 2:00 pm.  On Sept. 12, the exhibit will be open 9:00 – 5:00 pm and will include a reception at 4:00 pm.

The mural was exhibited as the centerpiece of an exhibition—"9-11 The Day"—at the Las Vegas Art Museum in 2004. Following Etchison’s untimely death in 2008, his life's work was auctioned off in Las Vegas, and the Faccianis ended up with the mural.

Dean Attridge, noting that the YDS community will remember 9/11 with prayers and communal reflections on the day and its consequences, said Etchison’s work “graphically displays the events of the day and the anguish they caused.”

“The tragic events of September 11, 2001 were a watershed in American history,” observed Attridge.  “The brutal terrorist attacks, particularly the assault on innocent civilians, seared the consciousness of the country and precipitated a decade of violent response.  Our lives have been transformed in ways great and small by the attack and its aftermath and we continue to grapple with our response to the events of that day.

“It is appropriate now, a decade later, to pause and remember those who suffered and died, in New York, in Pennsylvania, and in Washington, D.C., to be thankful for all those who responded to the tragedy with courage and determination, and to pray for and work toward a future in which such actions will never happen again.”

Etchison was born in Baltimore, MD in 1945. He was a graduate of the Maryland Institute, College of Fine Art in Baltimore and moved to New York after college to pursue interests in both art and theater. He lived in Brooklyn and designed scenery and costumes for off-Broadway shows for 26 years. He also pursued his art career in New York and had his first solo exhibition in 1982. Etchison owned two small businesses in Brooklyn—Brownstone Gallery and Studio, and Artist’s Bazaar, an art supply store. Looking for a “new start,” he moved to Las Vegas in 1996.

On canvas, Etchison painted what he saw around him or what his imagination saw. His style was American Expressionism, and he attempted to elicit emotion through his artistic endeavors. He was deeply concerned with poverty and the difficult lives of working people.

Posted: 09/05/2011