Photo credit: Provided by donor
Accession Number: C.2015.359.1
Dimensions: 20 in X 84 in X 4 in
Dimensions (Metric): 50.8 cm X 213.36 cm X 10.16 cm
Credit Line: Gift of Joanne Colonna
Sins of Our Fathers
Mixed media assemblage titled Sins of Our Fathers, 2012, by Jef Campion. The piece is made of reclaimed wood, scorched from fire, and attached together forming an oblong rectangle. Seven journal pages with handwritten entries, printed on velum, are attached to the wood with eight wooden crosses in between each page. In the center of each cross is a small posed ceramic hand reaching out. The journal page on the far left is dated 9/11/01 and reads: "I have had the unfortunate priviledge [sic] to work side by side | bucket by bucket | with some of the bravest |and most courageous men and women I will ever come to know | waist deep in debris death and destruction | my brothers | side by side." Hanging from one eye hook on the far right side of the piece is a pair of scorched boots that were worn at Ground Zero.
Jef Campion, also known under his street artist name “Army of One,” has been described as an unusual mix of formal painter, guerilla artist, firefighter, humanitarian, public servant and antiwar activist. After attending the California Institute of the Arts in Los Angeles, Campion returned to lower Westchester County, NY, where he was raised and graduated from high school. He later became a firefighter stationed in Yonkers, New York, where his co-workers became a surrogate family.
On September 11, 2001, Campion was on active duty at Yonkers Company 303. Quickly, he joined up with the metropolitan area responders fortifying the rescue efforts underway at the World Trade Center site. He spent several weeks at Ground Zero, on his own time, participating in the bucket brigades and contributing to the recovery efforts. Campion’s tenure at Ground Zero renewed his interest in making art. Feeling traumatized as he searched the wreckage for fellow firefighters, he resumed studio art as form of personal catharsis and as an endorsement of positive creativity. Although continuing to work as a Yonkers firefighter, he reopened a studio and spent increased time in it. However, despite the therapeutic benefits of his creative work, Campion's experience at Ground Zero profoundly impacted his mental health, ultimately leading to the end of his life in January 2014.
Sins of our Fathers utilizes fire-scorched wood scavenged from homes and businesses where he had fought fires, and diarist-style pages of text arrayed across it, paying heartfelt homage to the courage of the 343 New York City firefighters killed at the World Trade Center on 9/11. In the context of 9/11, the human hands emerging from a series of applied wooden crosses have been interpreted as Campion’s allusion to the outreach gestures of first-responders attempting to dig through debris to find those trapped, to grab a hand in need, and reaching out for the hand of God.