Giant Mary Holds the Twin Towers
New York, New York
9/11 memorials can be stark and abstract, or movingly figurative. But the one affixed to the exterior of Saint Stanislaus, a Polish Catholic church in the East Village, is surreal. The bas-relief metal plaque depicts a gargantuan Madonna with her arms embracing the World Trade Center towers in flames. Much additional symbolism is packed into this image: Mary is wrapped in a star-spangled shawl; shes wearing a Great Seal of the United States eagle medallion; a patriotic sunburst frames her head -- and three deep slashes gouge her right cheek, as if she's been mauled by Wolverine.
In the lower right corner is a miniature sculpture-within-a-sculpture: a dramatically posed man being run through from behind by a bayonet. This is the Katyn Memorial in Jersey City, New Jersey, on the waterfront directly across from Ground Zero, which mourns the thousands of Poles who were killed by the Soviets in the Katyn Forest in 1940. Sculpted by Andrzej Pitynski, unveiled in 1991, this violent piece was threatened with its own destruction when it was a proposed to remove it and put a 9/11 monument in its place. Instead, a plaque identical to the one at Saint Stanislaus was added to its granite base in 2004, creating a double whammy of darkness and distress.
It's hard to know what congregants at Saint Stanisalus think of their three-dimensional gut-wrenching vision, as the plaque is currently hidden behind a bunch of large potted plants. Poor Mary can't get much sadder.