Blue Man Group Founder and Fellow Artists Discuss Creating Art after 9/11

Chris Wink of the Blue Man Group and artists Manju Shandler and Christopher Saucedo sit beside each other onstage as they talk about their artistic responses to 9/11.
Chris Wink of the Blue Man Group, left, and artists Manju Shandler and Christopher Saucedo discuss their artistic responses to the events of Sept. 11. Photo by Monika Graff.

Blue Man Group founder Chris Wink was in New York on Sept. 11, 2001. Shocked and horrified by the terror attacks and the traumatic aftermath, Wink and cofounders Matt Goldman and Phil Stanton sought a way to cope with the tragedy through art. They collected pieces of scorched paper that had blown from the World Trade Center onto the streets of Brooklyn on the day of the attacks and incorporated them into a new song and video titled “Exhibit 13,” named after words that appeared on one of the papers.

Wink spoke candidly about his struggle to create art after 9/11 during a public program at the 9/11 Memorial Museum where he was joined by fellow artists Manju Shandler and Christopher Saucedo. Works by the three artists are on display in the museum’s special exhibition, “Rendering the Unthinkable: Artists Respond to 9/11,” which features artwork from 13 New York City-based artists who relied on their craft to understand an incomprehensible act of terror. The Blue Man Group video is one of the works in the exhibition.

“It was a little like art therapy. We wanted to create an alternative to how we were seeing [9/11] on TV,” said Wink, explaining the process of creating the video. “We experienced the paper falling and each one of those papers had been tied to someone in that building, [so we wanted to] meditate on that fact. We thought that the paper, the way it felt, was almost like souls taking flight.”

Shandler and Saucedo also expressed what inspired them to create art in the face of unfathomable destruction and loss of life.

“I think the impulse to respond through art stayed pretty clear,” said Shandler. “That’s what artists do, they respond to what’s happening to them in the world through their medium, through expression.” Shandler’s “Gesture” is on view in the museum’s exhibition and is comprised of approximately 3,000 painted portraits drawn from photographs appearing in the New York Times’ “Portraits of Grief” series.

Saucedo, whose ethereal paper work, “World Trade Center as a Cloud,” is on display in the exhibition, lost his brother Gregory Thomas Saucedo on Sept. 11 and used his art not only to cope with his deep, personal loss, but to also educate the public on the attacks.

“The truth is important. Artists have a responsibility to help us try to deal with the truth,” he said.

Learn more about the 9/11 Memorial Museum’s special exhibition here.

By 9/11 Memorial Staff

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