In May of 2000, the Cerro Grande fire burned through the Jemez mountains across the Rio Grande Valley from us. It resulted in a huge column of smoke which would descend on us for days at a time. The wind blowing incessantly only made things worse. It burned out a lot of homes in Los Alamos and caused both Los Alamos and White Rock, where our kids went to school at the time, to be evacuated. For those of us in the valley, it was just extremely frightening to watch the fire destroy so much, so fast. Here, in case you want to revisit the event, or don’t remember it because it wasn’t traumatizing to you, is the Wikipedia entry on the subject. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cerro_Grande_Fire
Both Irvin and I wove pieces after the fire. It was something that we, and probably every artistic soul around us, had to process in some way, and in our case, we process things via our weavings. Here is what Irvin wrote about “Flame 2000″, when it went to its buyer.
Irvin’s weaving was made at the time of the Cerro Grande Fire in Los Alamos, New Mexico May-June 2000. 54” x 54” design is by Irvin . The piece was started two weeks before the fire took place and had to be abandoned due to the evacuation of White Rock, New Mexico during the fire (the piece was woven in a private studio at White Rock). After residents were allowed back into White Rock, the piece was completed. The design for this piece was from a sketch I drew in the 90’s. It is a coincidence the the fire happened while I was weaving this piece. The design looked like a fire in the heart and thus revealed its identity.
The dyes used for color were all natural; cochineal for reds, cota for orange/yellows, chamiso and peach leaves for yellows and yellow/greens, black walnut for tans, madder root/black walnut for orange/brown, indigo for blues, indigo over chamiso for dark greens and blue/greens.. Irvin did the dyeing at the Chimayo studio.”
I did “Consequences Fire” a few months later. It has a lot of stuff buried in it, so I’d like to try to explain it here.
The mountains at the bottom are the Jemez mountains, which I have already mentioned in a previous post is prominently on our western horizon. So the fire in the mountains on the bottom portion, which are oddly geometrically represented, are the most realistic part of the image. The fire cloud arises from there.
The shape of the geometric elements of the fire sort of evolve into the geometric shapes of the fire cloud. The big cloud face idea was not mine. I had connected, in my mind, the Cerro Grande fire to an album that had come out while I had lived in Los Alamos (actually, White Rock) as a high-schooler. It was an album by some of my favorite musicians, and it was all about weather destroying the world. Fire is just one of the methods of destruction. Just in case you are interested, I want to provide you a link from Wikipedia for it too. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Consequences_%28Godley_%26_Creme_album%29 You can see the cloud face from the album cover.
From there the cloud shapes evolve into the ashes and “burnt toothpicks”, which is what trees look like after fires. There is a number 17 in those trees.
Above that there is fire in the desert, that happens to also be a goldfish, and there are pyramids and icebergs. Those are more important bits from premise of the album, but they also worked to create an aesthetic balance in the piece.
Like all my weavings, the process was very good for getting past that time and its somewhat traumatic affects on my life. We have watched more terrible and destructive wildfires in our neighboring mountains since then, and they are still terribly frightening, even if they are becoming more familiar to us. But the Cerro Grande fire inspired art.