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Wildfires on Canvas

Updated: Nov 29, 2019

by Megan Daly

When painter and collagist Sarah Winkler looks at a landscape, she sees a geological narrative; a history of dialogue between the land and the elements. Combining acrylic paint and crushed minerals, Winkler creates organic textures based on geological patterns, which she integrates into layers of magnificent colour. In Winkler's work, the earth is shown in its spectacular glory. And what could be more spectacular than witnessing firsthand the cataclysmic event of a wildfire?

Winkler is based in Colorado, which has the highest number of active wildfires in the US: the season of 2018 being one of the worst on record. One night, she got caught driving through a blaze by chance. Witnessing the battle between the firefighters and the relentless devastation of the fire, Winkler was inspired to create this series Smoke Signals.

A striking aspect of these works is the heat they emit. The splatters of smoke and the lines of a blaze merge in these compositions, where the almost amorphous land forms appear to melt. A wildfire is an event which demonstrates both nature's violence and its vulnerability. Though this environment is nothing but hostile for human life, through choice of colour these images have a sensuality, a sense of calmness. Winkler's work could be compared to that of Georgia O'Keeffe, not only aesthetically (apparent in O'Keeffe's Red, Yellow and Black Streak, 1924) but also in its pure celebration of the power of nature.

Smoke Signals was chosen to feature in Issue #4 of Radical Art Review, Farewell Earth.

To see more of Sarah's work or to contact her, visit:


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