Artist to share unique take on terror attacks

Chris Collins

'Mama, Mama, Look at the Plane' by Restituto Paris, Jr.

 

When he watched an airplane loaded with passengers smash into the South Tower of the World Trade Center building from his modest apartment in the Bronx, Restituto Paris, Jr. didn’t quite believe it had happened.

“It was pretty surreal,” he said. “It was almost like someone was shooting a movie.”

The day’s date – Tuesday, 9/11/2001 – is forever etched into the memory of the Bronx-born artist. He, along with most other Americans, will never forget that day.

Paris, Jr. will visit MSU Friday to exhibit his unique artwork, some of which has been greatly influenced by the sounds, sights and disbelief he experienced during the 9/11 terror attacks. The Fain Fine Arts gallery opening will be his first exhibition in Wichita Falls.

In the early 1990s, Paris, Jr. was fighting with the U.S. Army in the Desert Storm conflict.

After serving in the military for seven years, Paris, Jr. earned his bachelor’s degree in fine arts from Cameron University in the mid-90s, then earned his master’s in art at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York.

He was working toward his master’s degree when he witnessed the attacks masterminded by a group of religious extremists, he said. Paris, Jr. was sleeping when the first plane, American Airlines Flight 11, hit the North Tower of the World Trade Center.

He was awoken by voices on his radio announcing news of the attack.

“My wife calls and asks, ‘Did you see what’s happening?’ That’s when I looked out the window of my apartment and saw it all happening right there. I saw the second plane hit,” he said.

His wife called the school their children were attending and drove to pick them up.

“They were walking home and they were just covered in dust and ashes,” he said.

Viewing the attacks has profoundly influenced his artwork, Paris, Jr. said. It’s impossible for it not to.

“A lot of my work has little bits and pieces of what happened on 9/11,” he said. “It’s something you can’t get rid of. Something you can’t erase. It becomes a personal context that I put in my work.”

Paris said art is therapeutic to him. He compares making art to how other people may keep a diary or play a musical instrument.

“I use art, I use paint as my diary,” he said. “I can focus my anger and frustrations about what happened into my artwork. It’s just being aware of my surroundings and not letting my guard down, but I’m okay. Without my art, I’d probably be insane by now.”

Paris, Jr. said his military helped shape his feelings about the 9/11 attacks. His biggest piece of advice: to be aware of what’s going on around you.

“Things like that are possible. It wasn’t until then, when we got hit hard, that we realized things like that can happen at home. When I was in Desert Storm, we knew there was a war and we knew we were fighting. But when it comes onto our homeland like that, it becomes serious business. People need to be aware of that. We just can’t take our guard down.”

Paris said he mostly uses oil-based paints and acrylics in his artwork, but also loves to draw. He describes his art as being mostly personal, but doesn’t like it to be categorized. At the very least, he describes it as being surreal and sometimes abstract.

“It’s more abstract in thought than it is in literal form. I don’t know. I just put it out there. I work in a truthful manner – I don’t lie or sugarcoat things. I just want people to see it.”

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