Just years before the Twin Towers were hit, Norwegian-born artist, Torild Stray, created a charcoal drawing depicting the panoramic view of the Manhattan skyline as seen from the 85th floor window of the North Tower. Now, for the first time ever, the 15-foot drawing titled New York Metamorphosis is on display at the 9/11 Memorial Museum’s Concourse Lobby.

Between 1997 and 1998, Stray was one of the artists to be chosen to participate in the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council’s World Views initiative, a program set forth by Lower Manhattan Cultural Council (LMCC) and Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to provide artists with studios located in temporarily vacant space on various floors of the World Trade Center. During her residence, Stray created roughly 40-50 pieces, varying from 7 inches to 15 feet in size, using charcoal, oil, and ink, among other media.

Image of Stray’s studio in the WTC, taken by Geri Israel (1998)

Prior to her year-long residence at the studio in the North Tower, Stray was creating all of her work out of a small studio in Brooklyn. The new studio space shifted her perspective on the city, as well as the way in which she approached her artwork. “Moving from (Brooklyn) to a studio where I had the whole of New York City at my feet was initially overwhelming. The subject was incredibly complex and the depth of field was infinite,” said Stray. “My inner vision directed me as I deconstructed the city and rebuilt it on canvas. I came to view the buildings as extensions of the city itself, as organic beings, alive and constantly changing.”

Image by Helen Tschudi

This particular work, New York Metamorphosis, depicts a vantage point that can no longer be seen in the same way since the Tower’s destruction. The city skyline shown from this perspective was the view that people saw the day the plane flew towards them on September 11. Stray hopes to have her work used for educational purposes and to convey “a feeling of one’s own mortality, (and a sense of) timelessness and awareness of life and its larger dimensions,” said Stray.

After being on display at a gallery in Oslo, and then moving to New York to undergo paper restoration by the 9/11 Memorial Museum paper conservator, the artwork is permanently back at its home on Ground Zero — where it was created, and where it ultimately belongs.

Image: Executive Vice President of Collections & Chief Curator Jan Seidler Ramirez with artist Torild Stray, taken by Cathrine Wessel

Many of Stray’s other works created during her residence at the WTC studio can be found all over the world from New York to Washington D.C., Scotland, Norway, England, and Japan.  Just recently, Stray’s work was shown at the New York Armory show. Staged on Piers 92 & 94, The Armory Show features presentations of innovative artists from over 200 leading international galleries. It most recently presented Stray’s “Showreel Obscura,” a projected video/soundscape that showcased 100 of Stray’s artworks, accompanied by a live performance of her drawing.

Along with the recent debut of the New York Metamorphosis artwork, Torlid Stay has teamed up with director Eivind Tolaas at Flimmer Film in Norway to create a documentary about her creation process. The documentary, titled Return of a View, is expected to be completed this spring.

Next, check out Inside the National 9/11 Memorial Museum and The Top 10 Secrets of the 9/11 Memorial in NYC.