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After Paradise and Other Landscape Paintings

Since the pandemic struck, I’ve been holding on to moments of fleeting beauty, wanting to delve inside them, like an airplane flies within a cloud. You can’t see where you’re going, you’re moving forward but have no way to confirm if that’s really the case. The light shifts around you slightly, and you know that, yes, you’re in fact hurtling through space.

As the viral storm gathered force in March 2020 and we were ushered into global quarantine, I sought a space in which I could be, paradoxically, expansive and open. The world was closed down, and enforced limitations were everywhere and everything; in my studio, I began to paint. It was a way to move both outside of myself (my fear, my anxiety, my powerlessness) and into myself (my power, my growth, my internal world). The act of painting as oasis. The first paintings, on handmade paper embedded with flowers and ferns, followed the wild path of my thoughts. They brought me back in time to places, settings, landscapes that were unearthed by the momentary stillness of the world: the garden at my grandmother’s home, underneath a tree in my childhood backyard. Sense memories.

As wildfires in California ignited in summer and fall of 2020, and the skies filled with ash and smoke, another kind of fear set in, and I began to paint abstracted visions of these conflagrations. Shifting scale and substrate, I made larger-scaled abstractions on linen. With their brushstrokes, pours, erasures, and stains, these pictures still reference landscapes — sites of memory, zones of environmental disaster —but also the edge of the ocean, the sky at dusk, places of safe harbor and renewal. As with all of my work, I am looking to the destruction of both natural and human-made worlds, to ask questions about survival and loss, and about what we can attempt to control versus what falls irretrievably beyond that domain.

The title of the series, After Paradise, comes from a painting with the same name. In 2018, the Camp Fire incinerated the town of Paradise. California’s deadliest wildfire killed eighty-five people and destroyed nineteen thousand buildings. Three years later, in the summer of 2021, we find ourselves in the throes of the Covid pandemic, and the wildfire season is raging again here in the American west, as well as in Turkey, in Italy, in Greece, even in Siberia. The destruction of Paradise is the condition we are in, locally and globally.

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