Maya Gonzalez-Skinner & Max Sugarman – Fire Season

In our lifetime, forest fires have been the norm. This year there have been 5,741 wildfires, 305,847 acres burned, 4 fatalities, and 49 structures destroyed in California.  From June to late November, we have grown used to smelling the smoke across the West Coast. We are familiar with the way the sun turns red and how the ash stings our lungs. Now that we’re older, we want to explore these experiences and emotions. In our paintings, we show our perspectives on the impacts of wildfires by representing them as living creatures. 

In our first piece, two mountain lions are depicted in bright orange and muted red hues to encapsulate the idea of “being on fire”. The lion to the left has its lower torso enveloped by glowing redwoods, which are native to California and are the state tree. On the right, the lion’s paws become submerged within the same glistening redwoods. The symbolism of this piece was to highlight the destructiveness of fire to the national forests of California and to bring awareness to the wildlife affected.

In the second painting, the dull reds and grays invoke a feeling of apocalyptic gloom that takes hold when wildfire smoke turns the sky a dark orange. The swan laid across the piece represents the many habitats destroyed and wild animals that are killed during intense wildfires. Additionally, swans are commonly used as a symbol of purity and innocence, so the death of the swan shows the loss of “purity” in forests due to human influence and climate change.