Friday Figures- How to paint a tornado

First, get up off your knees. 3 minute pose, 6B pencil on newsprint 14" x 17". Model skates with the Poison Okies, an OKC Roller Derby team.
Step one: rise up and roll with it.  A Roller Derby skater in Oklahoma City, who knows a whole lot about resilience, poses for 3 minutes. 6B pencil on newsprint 17″ x 14″

Making art from destruction is a good exercise in catharsis. People do it everyday. The form it takes depends on the physical or emotional or even metaphorical destruction involved. Sometimes all three parts get whipped up together in a single twisting strand.

Looking up: Oklahoma City's  Poison Okies  roller derby queen on the model stand. 3 minute pose, 14" x 17" 6B pencil on Newsprint.
Looking up: Oklahoma City’s Poison Okies roller derby queen on the model stand. 3 minute pose, 17″ x 14″ 6B pencil on Newsprint.

Today is the third anniversary of our survival of a destructive EF4 tornado. There are a number of after-effects of that event, on any number of levels. One of them is that I don’t like revisiting it much. But when the National Weather Center announced its first Weather Art Biennale, I couldn’t not enter it. And there was only one thing I could paint.

"Rise"; 12" x 12" acrylic on canvas, 2013. Painted from first image taken on iphone upon leaving the storm shelter on May 10, 2010. Painted on a canvas recovered from the rubble of my studio. What you are looking at is the guest room, brass bed, linens, washer and dryer to the right where the laundry room was. Brown shag carpet at the bottom. The back of the canvas, oddly, is my favorite part of the piece. It holds a collection of dirt, wallboard chips, and fiberglass insulation. I had the framer preserve it with an acrylic cover.
Anatomy of a junk pile: “Rise”, painted from an image taken with my iphone on leaving the storm shelter, and the canvas itself was retrieved from the rubble. This was the guest room: old brass bed askew, unmade, the blue flannel sheet draped over the glass patio door, that ugly brown shag carpet mercifully stripped from the floor. The washer and dryer to the right- that’s what the rear of a Maytag looks like.  There’s a dead leaf, wallboard dust and fiberglass fluff salad sealed under a sheet of clear acrylic on the back of the canvas; the framer preserved it all for posterity.

I’m honored that my entry, “Rise”, is not only in the Biennale, but it’s the featured painting in Southwest Art Magazine’s show preview:

We wanted to see the weather depicted not just as a beautiful natural phenomenon, but also something that affects man’s experience of the world.—Alan Atkinson, curator, National Weather Center Biennale

It’s an odd but cathartic feeling to paint that appalling image on canvas (a canvas extracted from the rubble). The updraft of colored paper commemorates artworks gone with the storm, but also, in my own way, a rising sense of whimsy, and a little movement up, out, and onward.

Happy Friday.

10 thoughts on “Friday Figures- How to paint a tornado

  1. Tim Heidorn says:

    I love the geometry of the books floating on the left side … or are they greeting cards? … or, just something? Anyway, it draws my eye into motion.

  2. Linda DeBerry says:

    I love this Debby! You managed to give a terrible life experience a “lift” of color and hope. In spite of the destruction, I sense the joy of unexpected flight in those sheets of paper… though I at first took them for books: Look at us! we’re flying!

  3. dinahmow says:

    Yes, I remember reading, here and on-line news feeds, the horrors of that.
    I’d say your depiction is a powerful statement.I like the metaphorical onward and upward bright colour swatches.

  4. Larry Carter says:

    A very moving painting Debby – I saw it in person last Thursday at the NWC It was one of the best in the show. Congrats again.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s