To those in New York and New Jersey art circles, she is renowned as WOOLPUNK®, but at Hudson County Community College (HCCC) she is Michelle Vitale, the Director of Cultural Affairs for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. WOOLPUNK®’s original works, Ocufluent I & II, are being exhibited throughout the holiday season in the Oculus Transportation Hub at 2 World Trade Center in New York City. The works pay tribute to lives lost on September 11th, and to all those who are suffering 20 years later.
To create the works, WOOLPUNK® combined her photos of the Oculus after its 2016 opening with handstitched flowers. The photos capture a sacred space where feelings of shock, terror, loss, and grief coexist with renewal; the flowers memorialize, hearten, and honor those whose lives were lost. “I strongly believe that art can heal,” WOOLPUNK® stated. “Acknowledging the painful memories of 9/11 allows for reflection, which is essential in building a stronger, more united world.”
Ocufluent I & II was originally curated by Karin Bravin of BravinLee Programs in the summerlong “RE:GROWTH” exhibition in Manhattan’s Riverside Park. The Oculus exhibit is made possible by Hudson County Community College President’s Advisory Council on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (PACDEI), the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and Karen Bravin of BravinLee Programs, all of whom want to inspire hope for the New Year.
“Hudson County Community College is very proud to help provide these works with a venue where thousands can view and appreciate them,” said HCCC President, Dr. Chris Reber. “The message this art conveys is especially meaningful, and reflects the College’s core values of diversity, equity and inclusion. As a community, we live and breathe the value of human dignity and respect as we learn, teach, and work with one another.”
“The attacks of September 11th forever altered our skyline, collective ways of living, and ways of viewing the world,” said Yeurys Pujols, HCCC Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. “In the 20 years that have followed, our resilience, resolve, and compassion for one another continue to prove that no challenge can prevent our communities from prevailing. Together, there is nothing we cannot overcome and accomplish.”
Dr. Laura Auricchio, Dean of Fordham College at Lincoln Center and Professor of Art History shared: “Over the summer, I spotted two WOOLPUNK® public artworks inspired by the Oculus and designed to pay homage to those who lost their lives, and those still affected by the horrific events of 9/11. Nearly 20 years after the attack on the World Trade Center, I finally brought myself to visit the Oculus for the first time. The visit brought me some peace.”
WOOLPUNK® is a New Jersey native who, inspired by an immigrant seamstress grandmother who sewed American flags for a living, machine knits fiber installations, quilt sculptures, and embroiders photographs to influence social change. She has fabricated site-specific installations for a variety of institutions, and her knitted works are part of the “Walking Palm” group exhibition that opened on December 10, 2021 at Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. WOOLPUNK® has exhibited at Monira Foundation at Mana (Jersey City), Lion Brand Yarn Studio (New York), Montclair Art Museum, Object and Thought Gallery (Denver, CO), Salve Regina Gallery (Washington, DC), and other venues.