From our property-ladenEncroachment upon forest and chaparral,
We implore our mechanical Angels,
Our fire-fighting Heroes--
Our martyred Saints:
Intercede with GAIA;
Quell her fiery indignation,
Fueled by our neglect of,
Our constraint of,
Her natural cycles of
Destruction and Rebirth.
Salva me, salva me.
This is my first piece of "public art," inspired by the 2009 Station Fire, in which two firefighters died. If you see a visual reference to the Medici tombs, you're very perceptive. I hope to post here its permanent home, so that you can visit it and light a candle of respect and remembrance for our brave firefighters.
Station Retablo was created in 2009, two weeks after the Station fire was 100% contained, October 16. The weeks of the conflagration, started on August 26, had been much on the entire Los Angeles community's mind, and an opportunity for me to create a large work for a group art exhibit provided the impetus to create this piece. The assembled work was first exhibited on November 7, 2009.
Conceived from the start as a retablo, an altar painting, the work was meant to represent the cataclysmic strength of the conflagration, and to commemorate the deaths of Los Angeles County Firefighters, Specialist Arnaldo Quinones and Captain Tedmund Hall. The religious nature of this retablo evokes a sense of awe in the face of over-whelming power as well as a sense of mourning at the loss of life.
While not an artifact of the Catholic Church, this triptych acquires much of its metaphoric depth through references to the traditions of that institution, a fundamental element of the Los Angeles region's Colonial Hispanic history. The accompanying verse underscores the metaphors of Godhead, Angels, and Martyrs/Saints.
Additionally, the altar context of the paintings, populated with lit votive candles, adds a fuller, dimensional, temporal, and traditional connection to the religious nature of the work's title. The contained, tamed, reduced, and real flames of the votives represent not only the traditional metaphor--spirituality and fragility of life--but also resonate as actual fragments of the fire itself, fractal elements of the blazing avatar of this church's deity, GAIA (Nature). Finally, the vertical elements of the altar structure recall the burned out timbers of destroyed structures.
Art historians will not miss the homage to Michelangelo's Medici Tombs sculptures given the composition of a central image flanked by images representing "Dusk" and "Dawn." This reference further underscores the memorial aspect of the work--the tribute to the lost firefighters.
Following its initial showing in November 2009, with the Silver Lake Art Collective, Station Retablo has been shown twice more. In December, 2009, it was awarded "Best Landscape" in the Pasadena Society of Art's Artist Choice Exhibit, and in August, 2010, the work was selected for the 2010 Los Angeles Juried Exhibition juried by Franklin Sirmans, Department Head-Curator of Contemporary Art- LACMA and Ali Subotnick, Curator with the Hammer Museum.