I used to paint forest fires a long time ago. Then I moved to California and stopped. For the first few years I was in the Bay Area I was so in awe of the landscape that all my work turned lush and green. Then I became a parent and the fear came back. The warming climate, the rising seas, the season of smoke that kept getting longer each year- it all loomed larger. And then the pandemic hit. My paintings waited, unfinished- interrupted- in the studio, the warehouse open only to essential workers. I stayed home with my two year old. In the afternoons when she napped, I set up a tiny watercolor studio on my nightstand. I made one anxious watercolor inferno for each day I got her to nap. Then she stopped napping. In those early days of 2020, I thought of the virus as a fire moving rapidly through the populace, felling grandparents and neighbors and former colleagues. Then the actual fires started. The sky turned orange. I stopped painting altogether.
In the spring the warehouse opened back up to artists, all of us inessential workers. In my studio we took timeslots to keep from breathing each other’s air. I spent my designated Wednesday mornings painting alone. My paintings kept being interrupted by exposure quarantines, cancelled weeks of preschool. I left the space empty, paused, started a new one. All these interruptions to our normal days, I covered the blank spaces in gold like the crack in a broken vase. That crack in everything, where the light shines in. So that’s the essence of what these paintings are trying to do. Make something beautiful out of trauma. Stop. Then all that absence- heal it, scar it, close the chapter. Start again.