|"Bonfire 2" gouache on paper 12" x 16" 2012|
|"Bonfire" gouache on paper 12" x 16" 2012|
|"Smith's Ferry Fire Ring" oil on canvas 68" x 66" 2012|
|"Campfire" porcelain 24" x 24" x 5" 2012|
|"Match" oil on canvas 36" x 36" 2014|
A year after the Beaver creek fire nearly destroyed the prominent arts communities of Sun Valley and Ketchum, his work is included in a show called "Forests, Foraging and Fire" at the Sun Valley Center for the Arts (Aug. 23rd - Nov. 12th). In addition the artist is giving a 2 day workshop (Oct. 18-19) on depicting fire as both subject and symbol. Participant's will create their own charcoal with which they'll create studies of fire from photographs that they bring with them. On the second day they'll produce a painting from those studies. Fire as a subject is not as easy as you might think. For one thing it is difficult to capture even in photographs making reference material of limited use. Something is always lost because fire is in constant motion. It is ephemeral. And it is a light source, not reflected light. So you have to suggest as much as depict.
Fire as symbol however... well it's almost impossible for it not to work as a symbol. Mankind's inextricable relationship with fire goes back to our earliest ancestor's before anatomically modern human beings even emerged. It went with us across the planet and together we changed everything in our paths. Fire is deeply embedded in our imaginations.
But Mr. Lewis explores almost every subject he tackles with the same dual purpose of observation and meaning. He often depicts various objects, everyday items like the burnt match above which I included because of its relationship to the fire images, but also things like a knife, a hammer, a shovel, a paint brush, and so on. By isolating these objects and giving them both space and focus, they take on a loaded symbolic force. This is in part due to the nature of the human mind which desperately seeks to attach meaning to almost anything it encounters. We understand coincidence and randomness intellectually, but emotionally they don't even exist. Mr. Lewis' work takes advantage of this and draws the viewer into his work by forcing you to bring all the available associations you may have with his subject in order to interpret it for yourself.
You can see some work on an older post from January 2011. And there's much much more to look at on his website: wmlewispainting.com. He is represented through Ochi Gallery in Ketchum, ID.