by Tina Johansson
The bronze sculpture of an overcome firefighter—an American flag draped over his shoulders, one hand on his forehead, another resting atop a shovel, kneeling as if in prayer, with a contorted piece of steel from the World Trade Center under foot—made its home to Highwood on Friday.
Distinguished Highland Park artist Julie Rotblatt-Amrany created the more than seven foot tall (base included) piece that now sits in front of the Highwood City Hall at 17 Highwood Avenue.
The artist explained she started the work she named “Solace” shortly after watching the horror unfold Sept. 11, 2001.
“I remember exactly what happened. As I turned on the TV and was watching the second tower being hit, my knees kind of buckled. And in my gut I felt like WWIII was taking place. I’m sure it was even worse for the New Yorkers,” she said.
The event made an obvious impact on her. “(The sculpture) was my response to what happened, and my expression,” she said. “It was something I felt I needed to do.”
So after having a Highwood firefighter pose for photos for the sculpture, then creating the piece consisting of a montage of images, from clay, it sat, about 85 percent done, in her studio for years. The Fine Art Studio of Rothblatt-Amrany in Highwood is operated by husband wife team Rotblatt-Amrany and her husband Omri Amrany.
A gift to the city
After Eric Falberg visited the artist’s studio, he told her he wanted to gift it to the City of Highwood. Falberg, a Highwood alderman, and his wife Karen paid for the piece to be cast in bronze and mounted atop its base which was paid for by the city. Rottblat-Armany donated the labor.
Stones were embedded on top of the 3 ½-foot tall concrete base “…to give it a sense of rubble in the aftermath,” she said.
Welcomed this Sept. 11 with a huge flag hoisted atop a Highwood fire truck, the piece was unveiled for an assembly of residents and officials. Speakers included Highwood Mayor Charlie Pecaro, Alderman Falberg, State Senator Julie Morrison (D-29), Army Col. John Hussey, and the sculptor who read an emotional poem.
The Highland Park High School chamber group Voices Rising and Midwest Young Artists performed, including Lily Falberg, a daughter of the alderman, who sang the national anthem.
The Fine Arts Studio of Rotblatt-Amrany is celebrated world wide for its sculpture and design installations. More than 200 commissioned public works of art have been produced by the studio. For more information go to www.rotblattamrany.com or call 847-432-9925.