Favoring FIRE
American Art Collector|January 2021
Using the elements as his guide, Michael Scott examines the changing landscape in two exhibitions.
MICHAEL CLAWSON

A pinecone from the jack pine is a curious specimen. It can remain dormant on the tree’s branches for decades. There it waits for cataclysm to strike in the form of a forest fire. The resin-coated cones can withstand intense heat, which only melts the outer layer of the pinecone and releases the stubborn seeds from within. Later, they tumble to the ground and life begins anew.

For New Mexico painter Michael Scott, there is beauty in this relationship between fire and nature, one that he is exploring at great depth within an ongoing series of work titled Preternatural, a name that he borrows from 13th-century philosopher Thomas Aquinas—“Suspended between the mundane and the miraculous, it is that which appears outside or beside the natural,” Aquinas wrote. “Fire is attached psychologically to the human spirit.

It can be respite. It can be a meditation or a dream in front of the fire in the kiva. It can be a pondering of life. The same kind of fire that destroys also replenishes,” Scott says from his Santa Fe studio. He recalls a trip he took to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, where he witnessed fire ravage the land. “It wasn’t blazing but it was quite intense. It was intense enough that I couldn’t leave the Grand Canyon once I was there. That trip really impacted a number of my early fire paintings. But I don’t want people to view this series as one of destruction. There is a spiritual component, especially with how nature heals itself and makes itself healthier.”

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