Although her prestigious drawings of some of the most famous courtroom moments in history already have been widely displayed, Christine Cornell says that she's particularly pleased to open an exhibit at the Weehawken Free Public Library beginning Thursday, Nov. 29 at 7 p.m., and running for two weeks.
"Whenever I have an opportunity to show my work, I do it," said Cornell, a longtime Weehawken resident. "But it's especially nice to share it with the people I live with, the people of my neighborhood, my community."
Cornell's works depict such notorious figures as John Gotti, Sean "Puffy" Combs, Leona Helmsley and Kenneth and Sante Kimes. She has been featured on several television networks and newspaper outlets for the last 20 years, and will display 15 to 20 of her more memorable drawings in the exhibit, which is co-sponsored by the library and the Weehawken Cultural Affairs Committee.
"Most of my drawings are shown so quickly, like a flash on the television screen, and then they're gone," Cornell said. "And yet, so much goes into creating them. No one knows how much work goes into each painting and how fast I have to get them done. So it's pretty special to me to have them shown in my hometown."
Cornell has displayed her works before in previous exhibits, such as one at the Museum of Radio and Television in New York last year. She was approached to put together an exhibit for the Weehawken Library earlier this year that was originally scheduled for September, but it was postponed due to the World Trade Center tragedy.
In fact, the terrorist-related incidents hit home to Cornell, because she not only drew famous sketches of the original World Trade Center bombing trial in 1993, but she also drew those of the recent trials of the U.S. Embassy bombings.
"When this happened to the World Trade Center, I was so angry," Cornell said. "I remember having certain feelings for the terrorists [in 1993], because they looked like decent people who became decent portraits. But I was so mad looking at them. It was the first time I was ever that angry. When the planes hit, I went to Hamilton Plaza and stood there and cried. And I never thought those towers would ever come down."
Cornell said that it is important for her to continue to gain recognition because courtroom artistry is a dying form.
"There aren't many of us who do this anymore," Cornell said. "For the last 10 years, courtroom drawing has been my primary employment and the business has diminished quite a bit. I wonder if it will ever receive a resurgence again. So I get a sentimental feeling whenever I get a chance to do this."
Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner said that he was pleased to be able to offer such an exhibit at the library.
"The Free Public Library is attempting to provide a variety of activities to meet the tastes and requests of the patrons," Turner said. "This is the first cultural affairs event to be held in the library and we're planning on having several more. Not just artists, but other activities as well. There was a void not having the cultural affairs operating for a few years, but thanks to the work of Director Sarah Crew and Library Executive Director Philip Greco, we're able to offer this tremendous display."
Cornell said she intends to display some of her favorite works in the exhibit and will fill the library's Historical Room with those and other pictures to capacity. "I'm really happy to be able to show these off," Cornell said. "These are my personal treasures."
The library's address is 49 Hauxhurst Road, Weehawken.