Portrait of the Artist

Erin Lynn Welsh

In the flowers, in the flames

By Noelani Kirschner | February 8, 2021
American Wildfires, 2019.
American Wildfires, 2019.

Multimedia painter Erin Lynn Welsh’s series of landscapes, American Wildfires, takes a critical view of our collective response to the destructive fires that in recent years have plagued California and the West. The series examines why we are drawn like moths to the flame of well-framed photographs deftly depicting towns engulfed by fire, instead of digesting the weight of the news itself. “Because of the amount of social media we’re getting day in and day out, we’re almost becoming immune to disasters,” she says. Her wall-sized paintings of the fires compel viewers into paying attention to the message of environmental destruction behind the visually arresting aesthetic.

But when the pandemic began, Welsh, locked down in her small Brooklyn apartment and unable to go to her artist studio, could no longer bear to dwell on tragedy. Instead, she began painting flowers in acrylic as a way to reconnect with the elusive feeling of hope. “I wanted to start painting flowers for everybody,” she says, “because I knew that’s what would make other people happy.” Now, with Covid restrictions beginning to abate and her studio opening once again, she is eyeing a return to painting wildfires after concluding her Botany Mono series. With these floral paintings, she says, “I figured out a way to be large and gestural while being minimalist. I want to re-approach some of these newer paintings of American Wildfires in the same way. Less is more.”

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