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Return To The Mountain

Oil on Reclaimed Window 2020

Three young boys climb a flower painted hillside in the photo. The oldest boy is five, and his two younger brothers are three. It's strange looking into photographs taken of you from the very outskirts of your memory. I am one of the younger boys, the blonde one in the striped shirt, the one with the bulging diaper. I don’t remember many details from this day, but have a vivid memory of the warmth of the sun on my back, and can picture the brilliance of the orange poppies and purple lupines that bedded the mountain-side. Inspired by this image and memory I decided to use it as reference in one of my paintings. I painted the image onto an old window frame I found, thinking that perhaps a painting of my childhood would be best fitted to appear on another item from the past. I spent a few weeks on the painting and chose not to include myself in the painting but instead to focus the piece on my brothers.

After creating the painting I decided to take it up to the most recent wildfire burn area above Santa Barbara and photograph it amongst the charred trees and powdery black soil. My intention was to capture the passing of time. The children in the painting have grown up and are now off to college, and the landscape that they once frolicked through is blackened as a result of anthropogenic climate change and irresponsible power line management. 

It was a beautiful day. The sky was blue, a slight breeze drifted lazily through the air, and the alien landscape of the wild fire’s footstep lay devoid of human life, me being the only intruder to an otherwise dark display. I propped up the painting, snapped a quick picture with my phone and turned around to reach for my camera. Just seconds later a gust of wind blew through the canyon, knocking over the window frame and shattering one of the glass panels. I stood and stared at the newly shattered window in slight disbelief. The panel that I had spent the most time creating lay in pieces amid the ash. In frustration, I yelled some things into the vacant canyon, sat on a nearby rock, and was forced to reflect on the irony of my circumstances. I had set out that morning hoping to capture in a photo the unruly force of time, and in my efforts to make time stand still wound up destroying the very subject matter of my photo.   

At my current age I am hesitant to try too hard to make sense of why the things that happen happen and what my role is in their happening. But what I am doing at this moment is learning from my expeditions into the many facets of art and nature. I am hanging out in the flowers and in the ashes, attempting to capture stories in paint, and watching the path I take transform with the movements of the wind.

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