Over the next few weeks, we’re going to see and read a lot about the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. There will be memorials, remembrances, celebrations of lives lost, and lots and lots of tears.

In some form or fashion, each of us will recount exactly where we were when we heard the news and under what circumstance when we saw images of the planes crashing into the World Trade Center in New York and of those buildings melting into the earth.

Barbara Ernst Prey, a watercolor painter who has made Maine the subject of her work for the past 40 years, quietly marked the occasion this summer with her annual exhibition at her Blue Water Fine Arts gallery in Port Clyde. Many of the paintings, on view through Wednesday, feature serene scenes of the American flag.

Prey spends her summers in Maine and lives the rest of the year on Long Island, N.Y. She grew up in Manhasset, N.Y., a bedroom community of New York City. Forty-five people from Manhasset died in the attacks.

Everybody knew somebody who died. For Prey, it was the father of her children’s friends. There were others.

“It was just a very, very — emotional isn’t the right word. Shock is not the right word. I can’t quite find the right word. It’s very difficult to put words on it or about it. I just remember the grieving. People would cry for weeks,” she said.

Soon after the attacks, Prey came to Maine. She often comes up in the fall, but this was a different trip. As she drove down the St. George peninsula, she saw more American flags than ever before. The flag became a symbol not only of patriotism, but a metaphor for American pride and resolve.

Over the course of that winter, she made a series of flag paintings based on what she observed at St. George, including one that stands as a memorial to a friend who died in the attacks. The flag has remained a motif in her work since.

“Everyone has a story. Everyone has a connection,” Prey said. “It was such a fragile time. Scary, I would say. That’s where Maine was just very important to me. It was part of the healing process from a personal perspective. Being able to come to Maine and find the ideas for this work was part of the healing process.”

The benefit of a decade adds a different dimension to her 9/11 paintings. They are still deeply personal, of course, and there is no getting around their emotional impact or how they represent our collective healing process.

But they stand on their own in a different way. They have become Prey’s expression of her own personal patriotism, which has grown deeper and more profound with time. Now, they are less about the event and more about a way of life.

Over the years, Prey has become associated with a different kind of patriotism. She has completed four paintings for NASA — a rendering of the International Space Station; a tribute to the astronauts who died in the Columbia shuttle disaster; an homage to the shuttle Discovery and its return to flight; and an image of the X-43, the fastest aircraft in the world.

Even though they are different bodies of work, Prey’s NASA paintings and her 9/11 paintings fit together on some level. Her work for NASA offers the awesome perspective of the unknown. The 9/11 paintings are feet-on-the-ground images that represent a different kind of awe — the awesome power of humanity, community and loss.

Prey is also involved in Tuesday’s Children, a nonprofit that provides support for the families of 9/11 and others impacted by global terrorism. The organization’s president is a childhood friend, and Prey has been active in the group since day one. Earlier this month, she helped with a benefit in Northeast Harbor, donating prints for a fundraising auction.

On Sept. 11, Prey and curator Charles Riley, who curated her New York exhibit “A Trace in the Mind,” will talk about her work and her response to the tragedy at the Princeton Club in New York City.

Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or at:

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Twitter: pphbkeyes