We remember September 11 with Ellsworth Kelly’s Ground Zero (2003). Kelly first began conceiving a memorial at Ground Zero in 2001, when he imagined a large, gently sloping mound of earth covered in brilliant green grass. For thousands of years, cultures all over the world have used mounds as a way to revere the dead, and Kelly has said that ancient mounds of North America influenced some of the shapes in his work. When the artist saw this aerial photograph of Ground Zero published in The New York Times in 2003, he was moved to make this collage of a prospective memorial. As envisioned by Kelly, pedestrians walking towards the memorial would see green curves at the intersection of the street and the mound, each block offering a different aperture and shape. Those looking down from neighboring buildings on the site would see an expanse of color, as if looking at the ocean or sky. 

Ellsworth Kelly (1923–2015), Ground Zero, 2003. Collage on paper (newsprint). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; gift of an anonymous donor. © Ellsworth Kelly

“I had the idea to ask Ellsworth [Kelly] to design a tattoo a few years ago and did one day, not really expecting him to say yes. But he was happy to do it so I photocopied my right forearm, which is where I wanted it, so he’d have an actual size ‘image’ of my arm. Then a few months later I was up there visiting him and asked him about it again and he said, 'Let’s just do it right now,’ so he pulled out scissors and colored paper and worked out the design on my arm, and then made a collage of that on the photocopy of my arm. I took that collage to the brilliant and wonderful Scott Campbell and he executed it using the collage as a reference and matching the colors, etc. Ellsworth was so pleased when he finally saw it that he gave it an inventory number and considers it one of his works of art. The whole experience was delightful and I adore Ellsworth, one of the nicest, kindest friends anyone could hope to have." —Whitney curator Carter Foster

See more art tattoos via New York magazine.

Did you know?

Were it not for Whitney Ellsworth, an editor at DC Comics, the iconic villain, Joker would not have survived past his second appearance. The character was originally created as a run-of-the-mill homicidal maniac for the legendary Batman to take out across a two part issue. However, Ellsworth suggested that the character be spared for the benefit of later issues. The issue, Batman #2 was just hours from printing when a hastily drawn panel was added in which a paramedic states that he thinks Joker is going to make it. Were it not for this panel, the Joker would have died in 1940. Hats off to Mr. Ellsworth’s remarkable foresight.