On the day of Sept. 11, 2001, St. Paul local Linda Banning was in New York for a work trip, staying in the Marriott World Trade Center, right between the two Twin Towers. She heard the low-flying plane. She felt the shudder that ran through her hotel building and saw the debris that fell from the sky. She thought it was an earthquake, and only after running outside did she find out what really happened. In that moment, everyone who was there had their lives changed, and as she told a woman she hugged, trying to console her, she didn’t know why.
“It took me almost a week to get out of New York, which I think was really helpful because you’re with people who knew what happened, who had a mutual shared experience, right?” Banning says. When she got back to Minnesota, she suffered from intense PTSD and had many, many awkward moments with people who knew what happened but didn’t know how to approach her or empathize. Even when she started to cope with the help of a therapist, she still didn’t feel like she fit in the same space as the Linda Banning before 9/11.
“I knew that it would fix itself with time, but for me, it was like you go through an event like that, and all of a sudden, the life you’re living feels very small and shallow and meaningless,” Banning says. So she followed her two passions in life: From 2002 to 2014, she lived out in Montana and skied in the mountains, and during a longer personal journey, she became a full-time artist.
In a way, she had always known skiing and art to be the two things she loves most. Banning grew up on Midwest skiing, starting when she was four and working at a ski area when she turned 13. Art also criss-crossed into her life from her paternal grandmother and her great aunts; they turned her into a macrame machine and a quilling crackerjack, respectively, from a young age. Along the way, she picked up more skill-building projects like creating puppets, sewing doll clothes, and drawing landscape architecture projects on the beach.
As she grew up, she did her best to translate those passions into something she could live with. Skiing became more of a background hobby, and she learned how to create stained glass pieces to feed into her creative side. (Although her degree was in arts with an unofficial business-minded focus, her day job in the printing industry wasn’t arts-minded at all.) “You’re pulled in different directions and by different people and things, and you forget who you are and what makes you happy,” Banning says.
Montana allowed Banning to cut all of those strings and preconceived notions of who she should be. During the first year, she skied and remotely worked at her old job, and then in 2003, she began her career anew again, going to Montana State University to study fine arts. 2004 saw her create her first glass jewelry, and then in 2007, she became a full-time artist.
“Then all of a sudden, I had this shift, and I did not know what it was. It was almost like you feel uncomfortable all the time. It’s very strange, and I finally I realized that I was homesick,” Banning says. Living in Montana’s high desert had slowly cultivated a longing for the woods and the water一she even took up fly fishing so she could stand in the middle of the river. As soon as she made the decision, everything seemed to fall into place for an easy return.
Banning’s road is long and winding, marked by disaster and regrowth, uprooting and settling down, and constantly changing. She moved back to Minnesota in 2014 but to St. Paul’s western sister, Minneapolis, and while she renewed some of her old friendships, she let others naturally drift to the wayside. She wanted to go home, but she didn’t want to become the person she was when she left. She sees who she became in Montana as Linda 2.0.
“I’ve always had a creative outlook just because it makes me happy, but it’s like I needed to go way deeper, too,” Banning says. “Between the skiing and the art, I think those two things really helped me move into a more authentic Linda Banning.”
When Banning moved out to Montana, one of the sheets of stained glass she brought with her had broken along the journey. Instead of discarding the fragments, she broke a frame to fit it and pieced together what was left of those clear, swirling glass shards and added in pieces of color where the holes were. She called it, “Moving to Montana.” Without even thinking about it, she had created a symbol of how she was becoming the person she wanted to be.
Where to Find LB Originals
Find Banning’s stained glass and upcycled jewelry collections at her online store, at Rose and Loon (currently), or at the many art shows she is continuing to add to including the St. Paul Art Crawl (she’ll be in the Schmidt Artist Lofts) at the end of April, Art-A-Whirl in May, and the Stone Arch Bridge Festival in June. For an up to date calendar, see her website.