New book chronicles Darien artist's unusual American flag interpretations in time to commemorate 9/11 anniversary
As Americans observe the 20th anniversary of 9/11, a Darien artist with an international reputation is marking the solemn milestone with a new book of photographs.
He calls himself an average American guy, but 62-year-old artist Robert Carley is anything but.
His caricatures have been exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington. And his work commands so much respect, he's met with every U.S. president since Jimmy Carter.
When he's not busy immortalizing their images, Carley can be seen trading stories and smiles with all of them.
But for a guy who keeps such illustrious company, Carley sure goes through a lot of spray paint.
All you need to do is walk onto his back porch to understand why: He uses spray paint to create American flags out of everything -- from egg cartons to old VHS tapes.
"The American flag image is a beautiful image," Carley says. "It's okay to be proud to be an American."
It was that deeply felt patriotism combined with being an eyewitness to history that inspired Carley to write a new book released just in time for to mark 20 years since of the attacks.
"We're looking and we're watching the billowing smoke coming from Long Island Sound on 9/11," Carley recalls.
The book "Liberated Freed from the Flagpole: The Metamorphosis of the Flag Since 9/11," published by WestBow Press, documents the dozens of road-trips he's taken since 9/11 in which he has photographed hundreds of unconventional patriotic tributes to the American Flag.
"Seeing the country, going to little towns, little no-name town and meeting people, going to Waffle Houses, going to little diners, talking to people. It was just so much fun and rewarding," Carley says. "In some circles, museum circles, that was considered corny. But to me, that is American history."
"At one time America was really together, we were red, white and blue," he says. "America was the Good Samaritan right after 9/11. We weren't the 'Great Satan,' which the terrorists were saying."
Carley says the events of Sept. 11, moved him.
"That's when I turned to the photography. I wanted to document what was going on -- the beautiful spirit that was going across the country," he says.
The world-famous artist reflected humbly on a harrowing moment in American history.
"It was a terrible tragic horrible day that we should never forget. But in American history, we have a tragedy, and we can pull together and overcome it and move on. We don't have to stay in a rut," Carley says. "This is my way of remembering 9/11 20 years ago."
Carley's new book available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and at other major booksellers worldwide.