Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Into the Wilderness study (detail)

Into the Wilderness Study
Watercolor and Pencil on Paper
Original Dimensions Approx. 17"x13"

This study was a late version of the sketches for Into the Wilderness (image below). I came across this file in a folder of bits and pieces on my computer. In addition to the traveller on the right, the original sketches called for a dark, distant figure in the space to the left of the building. The size of the paper exceeded the limits of the scanner that I used, which caused both the figure and corresponding space to be cropped out. I based the distant figure on this illustration that I made in 1998 for my poem 'Attempts to Map the Genome.'

"Trick: Banality is Adaptation"
Ink on Paper

As I worked on the final painting I removed both people from the painting, which greatly simplified the composition. I was happy with the decision and quickly finished the work.
Unfortunately, calamity struck during the creation of the painting. A miscast cigarette butt ignited the building that was under construction across the street. Fanned by heavy winds, the fire advanced on the surrounding neighborhood of Carver. Burning insulation rained from the sky and set secondary fires that made many homeless. At its peak, the column of fire lay horizontally across the street and was twice the height of the VCU Fine Arts Building. The firefighters saturated the surrounding buildings for approximately eight hours. Many burnt, but the FAB was only mildly scorched.
Inside, the studios were soaked and much work was destroyed. Many of my fellow students lost their entire body of work. I lucked out and lost only some small drawings, photographs, and this study.
For eight hours, Into the Wilderness teetered on the brink of destruction. I was grateful to see my unfinished painting intact when I was allowed to return days later. My gratefulness has only increased with time as my painting has travelled the country and served me well. I am also thankful for this haphazard scan, and lament all that was lost in that fire.
Imagine if one could open a museum exhibiting the art that has been lost throughout history. I'm sure it would outshine the Met and the Louvre.

Into the Wilderness
Oil on Panel

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