Thursday, July 3, 2014

More fire

A bunch of new fire scans...
all are 12" x 16"  oil on paper

Forest fire no.2
Abandoned House no.1
Controlled Burn no.1
Controlled Burn no.2
Controlled Burn no.3
Brush Pile burn no.2

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

A god in the Hearth

Here's my first draft artist statement ffor my September show at Attic Gallery, a visual essay on fire...

"Burn (Cascade Creek Fire - Mt. Adams - 2012)"  oil on canvas  48" x 114"
In the greek myth Prometheus stole fire from the gods and gave it to humans so that we could be like them. But it seems to me that fire itself is like a god. At the dawn of becoming who and what we are, human beings learned to summon this god at will. With it’s aid we became like it, a seemingly unstoppable force moving across the land, capable of transforming it utterly. The domestication of fire occurred well over a hundred thousand years earlier than any plant or animal, a vast gulf of time throughout which people gathered around their cooked meals and lingered at the primitive hearth, telling stories in the dark. After the stories I imagine some of them stayed up just a little bit longer, as we do even now, gazing silently into the shimmering glow of the coals. The fires we build at home or in campfire rings stir the echoes of this ancient history.

In October 2013, at the Playa residency program in eastern Oregon, I began a series of paintings exploring this complex relationship between fire and human beings. These paintings constitute a visual essay about the intimate role that fire plays in our lives. At it’s center is a large portrait of the remnants of a forest fire (the Cascade Creek Burn on Mt. Adams in 2012), four feet high by nine and a half feet long. Surrounding this will be small works on paper (12” x 16”). Many of these are close up studies of fires, their embers and coals. Others may relate more indirectly to fire. They may be night scenes lit by the ghostly light of an unseen fire or objects that may have some relationship to fire.

Fire remains at the center of our lives, perhaps now more than ever, even if we don’t often see it. By burning plants that grew eons before we existed, we've coerced it to carry us around in cars and light up our cities at night. We may have learned to summon it at will, trap it and contain it, yet we cannot completely control it. The Increasing and increasingly devastating wildfires, especially here in the American west, are due in no small part to all that hidden burning, our carbon boot print stamped onto the face of the planet's climate system. 

These paintings are not intended to offer any opinion on our use of fire. That would be like having an opinion on human nature. For good and ill using fire is simply what we do. The paintings are meant to work as a meditation on this fact, a reflection on the intensity and complexity of our relationship to it. We need fire. Without it we would not exist. And we love fire. It compels us in unfathomable ways. But we fear it too. And rightfully so. In this way it is like a god, perhaps our first and oldest god. Now we have unearthed untold millennia of fuel to feed it. And it has grown. Now more than ever we must recognize that this god is not truly domesticated after all.

"Fire Study no. 11" oil on paper  12" x 16"