Southwest Florida artist creates loving images from painful past

Photo: Video by

Southwest Florida artist creates loving images from painful past

CREATED Dec. 27, 2013

LEE COUNTY, Fla. - Cape Coral artist Sandra Priest is doing something no other artist in the world is doing - or has ever done.

"I'm honored to do this," says Preist.

She's creating something beautiful from pieces leftover from an ugly act - the 911 attacks. 

"911 must never be forgotten, we need to tell the stories, and re-tell them so that never happens."

Priest is working with huge chunks of concrete that once helped stabilzed the twin towers.

The pieces once made up what's called a "slurry wall." 

A slurry wall is used to build reinforced concrete walls in areas of soft earth close to open water or with a high ground water table.

The technique is typically used to build water-blocking walls surrounding tunnels and open cuts, and to lay foundations.

Since Manhattan is an island, the slurry walls were critical is keeping the towers standing from the day construction on them began. 

"This concrete is from the slurry wall itself and that was around ground zero," says Priest.
Crews had to remove large parts of the slurry wall to make way for the memorial and new subsway station at Ground Zero.
"That's the only reason we've got this," says Priest as she refers to the chunks of concrete.
Priest says she was contacted online by those who were having the concrete removed.
She was asked if she could use her artisitc talent to transform them into memorials.
Priest says it's been a beautiful experience for her. 

"I seal the concrete so the aggregate stone comes out," she says.

"I feel like a lot of this is representational of people."

"I find the the charcter of this beautiful," she adds.

"They are pieces that invite you touch them and everybody does."

Priest says, because concrete takes do long to "dry," a process called curing,  it's always changing.

"The (pieces) are almost always living because always curing."

She notices that when she works on the pieces.

Everytime I work on them, I begin by placing my hands on the concrete," she says.

"Each day it's differerent - one day it's warm, another day it's cold."

She wants people who view them to use their hands as well as their eyes. 

"That's what they're here for," she says.

"The healing part is just to touch them."

 Some of the pieces are abstract but take on their own look.

"These two look like alligator heads," she says referring to a couple of chunks.

"It's very Florida and appropriate since this is where I live and work," she says.

She's also created a table with one of the chunks which contains rebar from Ground Zero.

 The base is made of stainless steel. 

"It has two V's on each end - V for victory after Bin Laden was gone," says Priest.

Some of her works are already in place at memorials around the country - including Salt Lake City, UT and Bethlehem, PA.

"The plan is place them strategically around the country," she says.

She says a group in Miami is currently looking into placing one in Florida which Priest says would be a big honor for her.

In addition to always reminding people to never forget 911, Priest also hopes her work will help America move forward.

"It's about going away from our hurt and pain to be able to see these - remembering, reflecting upon them and heal upon them."