A San Francisco Bay area sunset inspired French designer Pierrick Gaumé’s painting Sleepy Freeway (2008). Facing the viewer, atop the magenta sunset hills rests a bald sleeping figure of a hillside, head on hands, eyes closed. Stylized magenta and gold-outlined cars zoom left and right in the foreground. In as little as a decade, scenes like this one–even a super bloom of poppies, lupines, and golden mustard that colour hills as if lit by sunset–might morph into more sinister visions when fire seasons approach sooner and more quickly.
Once we could celebrate untroubled the brilliant reds, magentas, and oranges of the Bay Area sunset. Now those colours are the scale of fire danger alerts, nightmares of fire tornados, vision of an elderly couple in the in-ground swimming pool while the fire rages above them, the burnt paint odor of a white pickup toasted like a marshmallow as it escaped the Camp Fire. Paradise in ashes.
Sleepy Freeway is no longer able to drowse undisturbed. It must be ever watchful, like the fire watchers on duty, ready to tweet calls to CalFire and all who keep their bug-out bags at the ready.
Jeanne Blum Lesinski
Jeanne Blum Lesinski is a long-time amateur of French culture and first met the artist of Sleepy Freeway when she was an exchange student in France and Pierrick Gaumé a school boy drawing cars. Years later the two reconnected. She still loves French culture and the car culture, this time the California car culture that jumps from the canvas in brilliant colour. In 2008 when Gaumé painted Sleepy Freeway, the dangers of climate-change induced wildfires were not on our minds the way they are today, demonstrating how viewers’ interactions with artwork evolve as the world changes.
Read Jeanne's poem, World in Motion, in response to artist Joseph Cornell.
Jeanne's poem, Embroidery, Lily Yeats, was a finalist in our Women Artists contest.
12/1/2022 08:42:19 pm
Jeanne: not only is the artwork spectacular, your writing to it speaks so well to the devastation of wildfire. Your final lines in particular remind me of the terrible fires here in AUS when we slept with our ears open, waiting for the next evac.
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