*Please come back and read this post from time to time. Like the “Self Organizing Galaxy” itself, this post is still evolving…


the early stages of   Self Organizing Galaxy 1984 – by Joanna Hyde

I am standing in the passage way
where arrivals for medical attention
go through the ER door
amidst bandages & oxygen
I am poised in a medical office
seen with mop & bucket
on 10,000 square feet of Dacron
on the surface of #5 WTC
at the base of The Twin Towers
My Painting didn’t get saved
Should It be dug up?
Would the Orange Town Dump
open Itself up to finding
the excavated reds & blues?
To finding the 3 foot-high letters
My Signature in Black

February 1st 2012   Barrington Passage, Nova Scotia   5:15pm



Dear Sir:

This email is coming to you
from an artist in Nova Scotia
who grew up in Rockland County
I graduated from Nyack High School in 1979
and obtained a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree
from The Cooper Union in 1983
In 1984 I designed and painted
a 10,000 square foot canvas
on the roof of #5 World Trade Center
(at the base of the Twin Towers)
This art project is called Self Organizing Galaxy
and can be viewed under that name
on Youtube

After the creation and exhibit of Self Organizing Galaxy
the canvas (made of Dacron)
was removed from the roof in two pieces
weighing 250lbs. each
stored by The Port Authority of NY&NJ
until I claimed it and
moved out of Valley Cottage in November of 1986
The man I was soon to marry
insisted the two folded-up pieces be thrown away
at the Orangetown Dump.

Could you send me any information
to find out what is entailed in excavating,
if possible,
such large and historic pieces
of art together measuring 100 feet X 100 feet?
Perhaps The Shroud for The World Trade Center?

Hi there,

With all due respect, in reading this message
I had to wonder if it was a joke…
there has been an enormous amount of development around here
since the 1980s.
The Clarkstown Landfill on Rte 303 has been capped
and closed.
The “dumps” in the swamp in W Nyack
are covered by the second largest mall
in the United States.
Unfortunately the prospect of finding your artwork
in my opinion
is precisely


February 2nd   2012   The Hawk



 — checked out your YouTube —
nice painting!
Sorry it is buried
somewhere around here.
Did you know they found dinosaur bones
not far from the dump?
And that there was a famous esoteric guy
in the early 20th century
who had elephants in Nyack
and apparently a couple of them are buried
around here somewhere as well?
So there is a lot of interesting stuff underground
and your painting is in good company
somewhere around here…

February 4th 2012   The Hawk




It was the largest sewing job ever

for North Sails East in Connecticut


It was laid out, all ten thousand square feet

on top of the most visible rooftop

in the whole world


It was My Dacron canvas

I paid for out of My Artist’s Fee

from The Port Authority of NY&NJ


It was laid out for Me to paint

in view of My Enormous Audience

of office workers

in Lower Manhattan


are any of Them left?


Are there any Men left

of the crew of workers

Who helped Me set it up?

Who helped Me lay out the plastic undercoating

to protect that roof:

#5 World Trade Center?


Who helped Me lay out the canvas

and strap it to the window washer’s track?


Are any of Them left

Who can say, “Hey – I worked

on that –”




Who can say, “I saw that painting

from My Desk

on the 65th floor”


“the 90th floor”


“from Windows on The World?”

February 4th 2012   The Hawk


  1. teeceecounsel

    It takes much less effort to destroy than to create, to loose than to find, to mis-place than to replace. Some things are gone forever and unless redesigned may not return again! Let’s guard preciously all that mean much to us. Truely a sad case here!

  2. Jill Joy

    Hi Joanna,

    As usual you blow me away…both the poignant nature of the letters and the expressed sense of loss and regret we have at letting go of and sometimes disrespecting our own creations as well as the magnitude of the Self Organizing Galaxy undertaking.

    I just watched the video and there really aren’t words to express how evocative I found the whole experience: your eloquent articulation of your intent, the size and scope of the project, your ambition, your youth, your beauty; the reverence for the moment you showed in the experience/performance you created. And in the letters: the loss of something magnificent; the sense of anger at betraying oneself at another’s behest; the passage of time; the loss that is inherent in life itself.

    It’s almost as though these two posts “The Shroud” and “Self Organizing Galaxy” represent the dualistic nature of life, exaltation of the moment and the creative act and the simple fact that all things, good and bad, must come to pass – Reverence for the moment and acknowledgment of pervasive impermanence.

    I salute you as both a human being and an artist of courage.


    • Joanna Gilman Hyde

      Thank you very much, Jill, for this letter. I think I was having a glass of Canadian Merlot when you posted this. Your attention means so much to me — and not the attention to me personally, but to everything that’s going on. Thank you,

  3. pointsthruprose

    The response email here is as deeply profound as the letter from Joanna. The two 250lb canvasses lay in a time capsule which is “capped and closed”. The response writer has a realistic yet compassionate understanding of the situation, “Unfortunately the prospect of finding your artwork in my opinion is precisely zero.” or did he mean “ground zero” The fact that a beautiful piece of art lays to rest with the second largest Mall in the US on top is a sickening metaphor for what our society values. Yet somehow the Art remains safe in it’s Time Capsule. This gives me hope.

    This post and the exhibit itself is full of metaphor and symbolism on the tragic events of 911 and what has followed. It is an incredible story about a very BIG piece of Art that is now safe with Mother Earth, and will be in our hearts forever.

    Thank you for sharing this story Joanna.

    • Joanna Gilman Hyde

      My idea of locating the two 50′ x 100′ segments of what may remain as my Dacron canvas for Self organizing Galaxy is as follows: search the landfill site records of what area was being filled at the dump in Orangetown Rockland County New York in November of 1986 — once determined, obtain permission from whatever agency owns the landfill for a series of delineated core samples to be drilled. Of course the samples themselves would have to be disposed of after examination, and the holes would all have to be filled and recapped, presumably. There are probably many other details which I haven’t yet thought of — the financing for instance. It’s also possible that someone found the canvas sections at the site and salvaged them for the material — in which case my imagined search would be to no avail.

      If the painting, or even part of it, were found and could actually be unearthed, questions would be raised as to what to do with it. Right now I think of the painting as a sacred artefact.

      Maybe it should just stay where it is — on film, video, and the internet.

  4. W Hunter Blair

    and then my efffing father has to die without ever having said to me: “Joanna, I’m proud of you — YEAH — THAT’S RIGHT — P-R-O-U-D”

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