Sep 17, 2013
07:29 AMArts & Entertainment
After Navy Yard Shooting, 'Flags Across America' Exhibit in Greenwich a Must-See Before It Closes
Editor's note: The state and nation marked the 12th anniversary of 9/11 last week with remembrances and messages of strength and unity that deserve to be ongoing. One place to keep the spirit alive is the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, where you still have a chance to catch a powerful exhibit before it closes at the end of this coming weekend.
In the harrowing days following Sept. 11, 2001, artist Robert Carley could see the smoke billowing in lower Manhattan from his Stamford office window. When he began noticing homemade tributes to the American flag, the Darien native decided to document these spontaneous expressions of patriotism, first locally and then all over the country. Twelve years and 43 states later, Carley’s passion is photographing what he calls “masterpieces of heart, thought and American ingenuity by ordinary Americans.”
His portfolio contains all kinds of flag creations, from cars and houses painted with stars and stripes to flag images formed by milk jugs or a chain-link fence. More than 100 print and digital photographs are currently on display in Flags Across America: The Photographs of Robert Carley, at the Bruce Museum in Greenwich through Sept. 22.
Though always a visual artist, Carley admits, “I never expected to be such a dedicated photographer.” An inherited camera from his father and a layoff from work enabled him to embark on what he refers to as a “red, white and blue road trip.” Since its serendipitous beginning, the project has been kept alive by his love of travel and the inspiration he gets from people’s patriotism and creativity.
“My goal is to document examples of people who love their country,” Carley says, “and to photograph each flag because these works won’t last.”
Moreover, he says, “I want to capture as many different flag tributes as I can within a category. For example, I have taken dozens of photos of flag-painted cars. Each has a different and unique treatment reflecting the owner’s personality. It’s not as if you’ve seen one painted car or house and you’ve seen them all.”
Carley was moved to create two flag artworks of his own, one with paperclips and another out of spray-painted water bottles. His favorite images are of flag-painted houses, which are the “hardest to find” and the “strongest demonstrations of patriotism.”
These days, new homages to Old Glory are harder to find. “We’re not as unified as we were. After 9/11, it wasn’t corny to be patriotic,” he says. “That’s the real sad thing about America now. Our spirit is not what it used to be.”
Carley hopes his photographs will rekindle that solidarity and camaraderie. “When people come into the Bruce Museum, it’ll hit them,” he says. “The spirit of love of country, the brotherhood, how we were after 9/11. I want our national unity to be reflected in my photos.”
For further information, call 203/869-0376 or visit brucemuseum.org.