I create vanishing murals using charcoal gathered from areas recently affected by wildfires.  This material, formed by the heat of the flames, carries the story of destruction and renewal that is intrinsic to the natural world.  

In late 2019, I watched the bushfires in Australia from afar in Connecticut. At the time, I was separated from someone I loved who was living in Sydney. It was hard to wrap my head around the images of destruction and the fear I felt. When I learned the koalas were too slow to run from the fires, it triggered all the emotions I could not express.

Throughout my career, I have painted animals as self-portraits, and now all my feelings are channeled into these koalas. One night, I picked up a pencil and made a small drawing. It wasn’t my typical style, as I considered myself a large-scale pop artist. Looking back, it was a way to cope, as I drew this koala in detail while listening to the frightening news. It was as if by drawing every single hair and detail, I could keep him safe.

As the COVID pandemic spread, it seemed like the earth was screaming. I didn’t know when I would see my loved ones again. With all the countries and flights shut down, I wanted to make art that reached beyond borders and spoke to the feelings of loss which united the entire planet.

I envisioned a large koala mural. I considered using acrylic paint, but the medium seemed so detached. How do I show loss, destruction, sadness, and yet still convey hope? I didn’t want this art to be able to be owned or sold. Images of families running to the ocean's edge, trying to escape the fires, were seared in my mind. One night I thought of the charcoal left behind from the bushfires. I imagined drawing the koala mural with the charcoal that would be exposed to the elements. When it washed away, it would look as if it were crying. I asked my partner in Australia if he would go to the bushfire sites to gather charcoal to send to me. They are so heartbreaking and haunting to hold, as I remember how they were created.

I spent the pandemic summer of 2020 in quarantine, creating murals with the wildfire charcoal. Some were outside and exposed to the elements. They washed away, and were reclaimed by the earth. Others I destroyed myself to illustrate the choices we humans make.

My mission with these temporary murals is to illustrate the fragile beauty of our environment which connects us all. I hope they inspire in the viewer a sense of urgency to take collective action and to protect what we love.

On a personal level, these boxes of charcoal postmarked Australia, were my connection to the person I loved until the world opened up again.