Project Description

Title: Along the Fireline
Medium: Watercolor
Image Size: 40 x 40
Contact: Bonner David Galleries

Drive east along Highway 41 into the mountains of the Sierra Nevada toward Yosemite and you’ll be awed by the majestic beauty but unsettled by the sight of bright orange pine trees hugging the steep slopes. By some estimates, there are 100 million dead trees in California’s iconic range, done in by bark beetles and five years of unrelenting drought.  That’s enough dead and dying Black Oak, White Fir, Ponderosa and Sugar Pine to fill an area larger than the state of Massachusetts.

All that dead wood baked in the intense heat of the “hottest year on record” means wildfire season in the West never ends as trees light up like torches, releasing enormous amounts of carbon dioxide and other Greeenhouse gases into the atmosphere.  As I put the finishing touches on this painting, over 19 wildfires raged throughout the state in temperatures that were 20 degrees hotter than usual under the state of emergency conditions that have become our new normal.

At first glance, Along the Fireline is a tangled patch of wild Asters lit by a setting sun.  But step in for a closer look and you’ll see that the vast sky is a little too blue for sunset and the warm orange light bouncing off the stems, leaves and petals is a reflection of oncoming conflagration.

I chose watercolor for this, the first in a series of paintings about climate change, because it’s unexpected at this scale, yet delicate and perfectly right for painting the gestural, almost figurative wildflowers – as fragile and interconnected as we are.  The frame is milled from reclaimed Ponderosa Pine, harvested earlier this summer from a stand of dead trees in my beloved Sierra Nevadas.  It will age to an earthy pumpkin color while the knots in the wood echo the knots of unopened flowers that will never have a chance to bloom.