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Phoenix Rising

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Phoenix Rising

A courier truck containing artwork by Seattle-based glass artist Cassandria Blackmore and encaustic artist Catherine Eaton Skinner caught fire recently while transporting their work to the Friesen Gallery in Sun Valley for a July exhibit.

Friesen Gallery director Stacy Collins told BW that although the incident was a tragedy, it's vital to note that both artists had shown incredible degrees of professionalism even though an event of this magnitude was a first for Collins.

Postcards announcing the July 3 opening, with images of both Blackmore and Eaton Skinner's work, were awaiting a mouse click to send them off to the printer when Collins heard the news. "This was a first; a first ever," Collins said. "A call saying 'the trailer caught on fire and everything is destroyed' are not words I'd ever heard before."

Blackmore, who sadly faced a similar experience before--losing her master's thesis during a large earthquake in Seattle eight years ago--was initially as shattered by the fire as her work was. Her process, reverse painting on glass, is a time-consuming labor of love and one that cannot be easily or quickly duplicated. But, as any true artist would, Blackmore looked at the event from a philosophical perspective, and also found a positive light to cast.

"The glass came from fire and went back to fire," she said. "I am doing the best I can under the circumstances and am scrambling to pull a whole new show together." She added that so far, she has been able to gather up 10 pieces from various people and places that she can put in the show, something she is thrilled about.

Blackmore said she wasn't willing to chuck the burned pieces away, but rather, wants to rework or re-fashion some of them.

"I'm still trying to get a few severely burnt pieces back from the fire site," she said, and was hoping to cast one in a block of resin as a tribute to the circumstances, but probably wouldn't have time before the show.

"I am left thinking about destruction," Blackmore said. "Even in destruction, there can be beauty. After all, my work is broken paintings reassembled."

"There's a positive spin to this," Collins said sincerely. "Yes, it is a loss for all of us. Unfortunately or fortunately, however you want to look at this, this is Cassandria's debut with us. We have shown her work once [at Friesen Gallery in Seattle]. This was supposed to be her grand entrance to the Sun Valley, Idaho, market."

But within 24 hours, both artists told Collins they would do whatever it took to get a show together. "It might not be the show we had anticipated," Collins said, "but it would be like a phoenix rising from the ashes."

Reflecting on how the fire would affect her future work and maintaining a positive outlook, Blackmore said a quote by Eckhart Tolle struck her as particularly prescient: "Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it. Always work with it--not against it."

Details on what caused the fire and whether the artists' work was insured are forthcoming.

--Amy Atkins

Show runs July 3 through August 3. Friesen Gallery, 320 First Ave. N. at Sun Valley Road, Ketchum, 208-726-4174, friesengallery.com.

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