Known in New Jersey and New York art circles as WOOLPUNK, Michelle Vitale’s original works, Ocufluent I & II, have been on display throughout the holiday season in the Oculus Transportation Hub at 2 World Trade Center in New York.
The works pay tribute to the lives lost on September 11 and to all those who suffer 20 years later. Vitale is the Director of Cultural Affairs for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Hudson County Community College.
WOOLPUNK created these works by combining his photos of the Oculus after it opened in 2016 with hand-sewn flowers. The photos capture a space where feelings of shock, terror, loss and grief coexist with renewal; the flowers commemorate, encourage and honor those whose lives have been lost.
“I firmly believe that art can heal,” WOOLPUNK said. “Acknowledging the painful memories of September 11th allows for reflection, which is essential for building a stronger and more united world. “
Originally from New Jersey, WOOLPUNK was inspired by her immigrant seamstress grandmother who sewed American flags for a living. She machine-knits fiber installations, quilt sculptures and embroiders photographs to influence social change.
WOOLPUNK has fabricated site-specific installations for a variety of institutions, and his knitted works are part of the “Walking Palm” group show which opened on December 10 at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City.
She has exhibited at the Monira Foundation in Mana (Jersey City), at the Lion Brand Yarn Studio (New York), at the Montclair Art Museum, at the Object and Thought Gallery (Denver, CO) and at the Salve Regina Gallery (Washington, DC ), among others.
“The September 11 attacks forever changed our horizons, our collective lifestyles and our way of seeing the world,” said Yeurys Pujols, HCCC vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion. “Over the next 20 years, our resilience, determination and compassion for one another continue to prove that no challenge can prevent our communities from winning. Together, there is nothing we cannot overcome and accomplish.
Ocufluent I & II was originally organized by Karin Bravin of BravinLee Programs as part of the “RE: GROWTH” summer exhibit at Riverside Park in Manhattan.
The Oculus exhibit was made possible by the Hudson County Community College President’s Advisory Council on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (PACDEI), the New York and New Jersey Port Authority and Karen Bravin programs BravinLee.