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After Paradise

As the pandemic 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. In my studio I began to paint again: the act of painting as oasis. The first paintings, on handmade paper embedded with flowers and ferns, brought me to settings and 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.

When wildfires in California ignited in summer of 2020, and the skies filled with ash and smoke, 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, at times, 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. With these paintings, I’ve also been holding on to moments of fleeting beauty, wanting to delve inside them, like an airplane flying within a cloud. At first you can’t see where you’re going ~ and then, the light shifts slightly, and you know that, yes, you’re hurtling forward through space.

The title of the series, After Paradise, comes from a painting with the same name. In 2018, the Camp Fire, California’s deadliest wildfire, incinerated the town of Paradise. Eighty-five people lost their lives, and nineteen thousand buildings were destroyed. As I write this three years later, in the summer of 2021, the wildfire season is raging 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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