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Berger Ballantine Trade Center Mural


Do I begin with Sunspot and Arnold or Arnold and the Organization of Independent Artists? Arnold joined our effort in building an artist community, Sunspot Inc, in Eastport ME. A few years later I joined Arnold to build an alternative art organization, AKA Organization of Independent Artists. It was here in the hall opposite our office in the federal building at 201 Varick St. I found a U S mail hopper filled with paint that I pushed into our office. With a little sleuthing, I located the source, a federal paint testing facility on the fourth fl. With surplus paint secured and the excitement of a new relationship with artist, Tia Ballantine, we began plotting a clandestine operation to paint a public mural at the base of the world trade center about 3 blocks long and the full highway width or about 850”x 80”. I started making drawings to gain a sense of the scale, 110 stories high. The painting would be viewed from both towers facing west and all other buildings in the immediate vicinity. Beginning under the cover of darkness we laid the painting out with snap-line chalk. The next night we began applying paint. we loaded our supplies and two-5 gallon containers of paint in a shopping cart and hauled it up the off-ramp to our painting location, Popped the lid and began dipping our rollers, little by little rolling out geometric patterns of triangles, squares and circles. That first week we had the basic drawing filled in with darks and lights emphasizing the diamond center with chevrons radiating off the center up and down the highway. We started in the center diamond, Tia on the east side of the divider, me on the west. As we proceeded, I looked over at my partner who was making the patterns so small and tight I felt we would never finish so I climbed over the wall and pushed my way in to her. At first, she skirted around me, I kept up my pursuit until she got into it and we began dancing as one. Soon you could not tell who was painting what. After the first week, the unfinished painting appeared on the front page of both, the NY Times and NY Post. This revelation caused us to defend for our lives, the artist we were staying with became physically violent, jealous of our new attention. There was even a press conference held on top of the south tower in which another artist claimed our painting was his conceptual painting in honor of the then visiting artist Joseph Beuys. We learned of the conference from a news crew who had seen us working. After the fight we moved in with Rozlyn Starr where we stayed a few weeks before subletting a loft on Hudson street belonging to a friend, painter Caesar Paternostro. It was here we were reunited with Tia’s two boys from a previous marriage who had been kidnapped by her ex-husband and held in a hide-out on long island until resolution in family court. The final days of the painting were spent stitching it together by walking across the surface applying single lines meandering through and about the entire surface. Upon finishing, we were approached by the police who asked us if we had a permit? Of course, do you think we would paint this in front of a building where 50,000 people worked every day and another 30,000 visited every day? They said they had to ask because they had received a complaint the graffiti artists were at it again. A post script, many artist friends visited us as we worked and only one, Mako Tanaka contributed.

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