My studio and everything in it burned down exactly three years ago today on 9-9-15 in the Butte Fire. You may remember it or you may have been burned out like me. Later, when I was sifting through the rubble, I found one of my books reduced to pages of ash. It seemed as if it was still perfectly bound…but all the words had been burnt off. It looked so real that I reached down to turn a page. It disintegrated at my touch. I took a deep breath and straightened up to look around. Everything was scorched earth and ash. The life I knew here was gone. Only memories remain.
In the aftermath of the fire, PG&E and the insurance company required me to list my losses. How could I take an inventory and set prices for what was irreplaceable? As I grieved through this impossible task, I began to realize what had not been lost…all of the art that had been in my gallery when I closed it a few years after the economy tanked in 2008. My beloved husband, Tom Weidlinger, a documentary film maker with an appreciation for the importance of protecting one’s archive of work, had saved my archive: 30 art masks, 7 life-size figurative masks and 6 freestanding sculptures.
My work had been packed in those utilitarian Staples cardboard file boxes and stacked against a wall in my studio. A few weeks before I left for Bolivia to join Tom at the end of August, he insisted that we pack and store them safely. Tom ordered sturdy, clear plastic containers with tight lids from Ikea. We repacked them properly and put them in my small barn/house that miraculously didn’t burn, but was unlivable after the fire.
So…you may wonder where I’m going with this story. Well…..you are all invited to a one woman show of those masks and sculpture pieces, on display this Fall from October 6th through November 31st at The Bridge Arts Gallery 23 Maine Ave., Richmond, CA 94804. An interactive demonstration will be from 4 to 5pm with an artist reception from 6 to 8pm. I have entitled the show “Beneath The Mask”. Perhaps the subtitle should be “Up From The Ashes”. It feels as if my art is being reborn with the amazing, creative Bridge Arts community as its midwives.
I have been wondering about the existential meaning of the book of ash and its blank pages. A phrase from the book of Ecclesiastes comes to mind. It may be familiar to you: ”There is a time to mourn and a time to dance”. It is necessary to mourn, to honor the memories…and to open the book of life that is today. The part of my life that burned up in the Butte Fire is gone. And…as long as there is new life lets dance.