Last summer, I went through the most frightening thing I have ever experienced, the California Basin Complex Wildfire that chewed through much of Big Sur. I had seen wildfires on TV, but had never experienced one in person until then. My partner, BJ, detailed the advance of the fire in photos on his blog as it was happening. We were advised to evacuate, but as we tried to figure out what we could take with us and what we could continue to do as the kind of artists we are if we were to leave, and especially if our studio did not survive, we decided that we needed to stay here and defend our livelihood as best we could.
The fire started from dry lightning strikes. We watched it happen and saw the smoke start to rise. There were so many, and the land so rugged, firefighters were not able to get to all of the starts. I was unready for the grip of emotion that I felt as I watched the forest flicker with flames. The huge billowing smoke clouds were terrifying when we could see them. When we couldn't see them, it was because the choking smoke was covering our hill.
I have a real physical problem with smoke in small doses. The amount of smoke that would stand stagnate over our house was incredibly awful. I couldn't go outside without wearing a respirator. BJ took the reigns to build us a water system capable of protecting our studio, in the 110 degree heat and the choking smoke.
I would be happy for the clearer days, until I looked across the valley and could watch the slow creep of the enormous fire line getting closer and closer. It would drop down into interim valleys and then blaze back up the next hill, sending pillars of flame shooting into the sky.
To see nearly 180 degrees of the distant hills in flames, and to see the bright glow and sparkling trees at night was too much for my little psyche. The fire continued to advance for over 2 months. I tried to continue with my artwork, continue to keep the studio open and creating, but it was so difficult. I would collapse into tears due to the sheer fright and underlying panic of this constant threat.
It wasn't until many months later that a series of paintings came out of the experience. I find them to be charged with the fear I felt. I hope the raw emotion is conveyed well. Please let me know what you think, what you like, dislike about them.
This painting is to show the chaos and force of the fire, leaping up from the burnt death underneath. Click on the picture to see a much larger image.
Trees and bushes sparked and were incinerated in minutes as the fire swept over them, the flames reaching so much higher.
Winds blew the flames from the singed ground high into the sky, taking with them the remnants of the lives taken.
Each single tree would burst into bright yellow flames as it gave its life to the fire.
Stags and countless other animals raced from their homes in panic, fear bulging their eyes, the fire hungry for more victims. Do you see the impressioned Stag in the painting?
These are all so different from my usual paintings. I have never been able to do abstracts before as my little mind tries to put everything in order. These seemed to come from a different place though, and although I enjoyed the process and the paintings themselves are stunning, I sure don't want to ever have to go through the fire again for inspiration!
Maybe I'll try some abstracts of rainbows and butterflies to calm me down.
Please let me know what you think of these. I look forward to your comments.