I first began to think deeply about the relationship between human beings and fire in October of 2013 while at the Playa Artist Residency Program in eastern Oregon. The residency lies at the foot of a steep escarpment called Winter Ridge on the shores of the shallow alkaline Summer Lake. It is a wide open high desert landscape, populated more by cattle than people and not many of either. All along the steep slopes of the ridge stood dead juniper and ponderosa pine, the blackened remnants of the Toolbox Complex Fire in 2002, one of the worst in the nation that year. Many nights at the residency I sat in the common room enjoying the warmth and light of a large stone fireplace while snow whirled and blew outside. The contrast between the wildfire that had swept this landscape (and which had come very close to destroying the property on which I stayed) and it’s comforting cousin in the hearth before me, became a focus of contemplation.
The paintings in this exhibit are the beginning of an ongoing visual essay exploring our deep connection to fire and the impacts of fossil fuels. Without fire we would not even exist. Cooking food allowed our guts to shrink enabling us to walk upright, and our caloric hungry brains to grow ever larger. Using fire we became like it, sweeping across landscapes and transforming them utterly. In it’s varied forms we simultaneously love fire and fear it. But all too often, at our peril, we take it for granted. To make matters worse the fires that fuel modern life are largely hidden. For millenia the hearth fire was the center of social life, a source not only of nourishment but of light in the dark and warmth in the cold. But now most of our fire is locked away in engines and power plants, sealed up like a genie in a bottle and made to do our bidding.
|"Burn (Cascade Creek fire, Mt. Adams WA 2012)" 48" x 114"|
Just because we don’t see the flames doesn’t mean the world isn’t burning.