Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Climax fire

I'm quite taken with this photograph.

My husband Christopher took the photo this evening while burning piles of dropped pecan leaves behind his studio. I've a myriad of close-ups which may make their way into tomorrow's post, but for now this is the one that makes me think of my own studio.

I'm interested in the image because of the burn pile's structure--wide, rounded nest of twigs and brush mounding up from our wild tangle of tough North Carolina crab grass and weeds. And then aloft the twig mound--disintegrating logs (moldy and therefore suspect for indoor fires), those pecan leaves with some rotting pecans still clinging to the branches (they spit and shoot, sending Alex inside to warn me while I stand at our stove, cooking evening's dinner), and the fire--a violent cap to the whole piling.

These are the kinds of structures I look for in my paintings, or invariably end up making--culminating masses which possess an undulating place, a seething moment portending explosion. A new friend, colleague and critique partner, the painter Jennifer Meanley, mentioned violence in the work a couple weeks ago--she perceived it in places, and I was internally astonished at first. I suppose it is the word violent that jarred--but in the end, I am drawn to these collisions of matter and light, eruptions of the most radical sort. Predicting...creating even?

"When protons crash into each other at 99.9999991 per cent the speed of light, the resultant mess is usually just that--the subatomic equivalent of shattered glass and twisted metal. But stranger things can happen. Just as it is possible to convert mass into energy--as in nuclear explosion--the reverse is also true: energy can be transformed into mass according to the Einsteinian equation E=mc2 (c being the speed of light). In this way, new particles can be produced that are more massive than those that entered the collision in the first place."

Elizabeth Kolbert, from the article Crash Course in the May 14, 2007 issue of The New Yorker

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