I walk, late evening, from my studio in the moon shadow and experience the Milky Way splashed across the sky. I think of how minuscule and fleeting life can be. Yet even these moments can be so rich and  one’s mark can be left and it can bring joy to those that encounter it.


October 10, 2013

In mid-June of 2013 two fires broke out in our area: the West Fork Fire and the Papoose. For three weeks our town was closed off and many of the guest ranches and summer homes were evacuated. And those that were not were on evacuation alert. In total 110,000 acres burned leaving a black scar on the land. It also was devastating to the local economy and our community’s lives. 

When the smoke cleared and denial had left my soul I felt compelled to paint the “Burn”. I began scouting the various back roads, going around some Road Closed signs to experience the heart of the burn.

In the process I have come to some major realizations. The majority of our forests covered with the “beetle kill spruce” was already dead. The fire in a sense was a cleansing to open up and give room for new growth. In some of the most heavily burned areas new fresh aspen saplings are sprouting everywhere. These aspen roots have lain dormant forever waiting to come up after a fire. Wildflowers are bursting into the black and gray landscape. Magenta fire weed are hip high along stream’s edge with new yellow-green grass covering the banks.

I walk gently on this fresh wound blanketed with burnt spruce needles and charcoal ash. Yet I am a part ot this wound- nature’s wound is our wound. This land that I have come to know in a certain way over the last forty some years will not be again in my lifetime.

It takes fresh eyes to see that there is in fact beauty in the burn. And so I go out to paint every day using a palette unlike any I have ever used. I have gone through more ivory black and Payne’s gray in the last few weeks than I have used in a lifetime. I am exploring so many different ways to express. Painting outside I am working on black paper and with casein. In the studio I am experimenting with gold and black gessoed aquabord panels and painted with acrylic. Sometimes I lift back with Q-tips or brush using rubbing alcohol. I plan to do collage works using the actual ash and burnt spruce needles for texture.

I have done some monotypes using two plates. So far they are straight forward but I am sensing some experimental works with chine colle and ash sticks. Who knows where this will all go but I am inspired and am seeing “Beauty in the Burn”. 


AWS Award Winner