Artists tackle wildfires


Two Fires #2 (oil, 18×18) by Carol Pierce 

A blanket of haze settled over Boulder, CO, for a few days last week. The drifting smoke is a constant reminder for us in the Rocky Mountains that there’s a massive blaze raging hundreds of miles away in Los Angeles.

By all accounts, there haven’t been any gallery or museum shows dedicated specifically to imagery of California wildfires, but more and more the state’s artists are offering us portrayals of the red hot flames licking the sky.

Northern California painter Carole Pierce (above) has been painting the sky and land all her life, she says. For the past few years, fire imagery has emerged in her abstract, Turneresque landscapes in part because she is intrigued by fire’s paradoxical quality. “Fire is both dangerous and amazingly beautiful,” she says. “It can devastate an area in seconds. But in many cultures fire is also about transformation, rebirth, regeneration, and spiritual awakening.” Pierce’s paintings are on view at Sue Greenwood Fine Art in Laguna Beach in November.

Los Angeles-based painter Marina Moevs is inspired by fire and other natural disasters that she reads about. (Her painting Fire IV [oil, 78×48] is above right.) She often creates imagined scenarios which, however, are all too real for Angelenos—buildings going up in flames and rooms engulfed in smoke.

Another Los Angeles artist, Alex Schaefer (who I mentioned in my last dispatch), says his recent depiction of a suburban house with a backyard consumed by fire is a mash-up of Edward Hopper, a photo from Dwell magazine, a Google map street view of a house in Santa Clarita and fire photos. (Fire 2 [oil, 40×30] is at right.) “It’s also a bit my feeling of the state of the things in the world,” he says.

But for Pierce, her fire works are more concerned with the question, “What is it like to live with fire?”

—Bonnie Gangelhoff

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