11. The Tornado

  The Tornado , 2017, oil on canvas, 32 x 26 inches

The Tornado, 2017, oil on canvas, 32 x 26 inches

As I write this, Hurricane Irma is two days away, predicted to work its way up the west coast of Florida, passing right over St Petersburg. So it seems appropriate that I reveal The Tornado, the next painting in the group that will be included in my upcoming solo exhibition at Angela King Gallery in New Orleans.

I've been in big storms before. When I was living in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia a blizzard kept me stranded in a 100-year old cabin at the end of a mile-long dirt road for four days. Power miraculously stayed on. The only neighbors within sight had evacuated (without telling me) leaving me to tend to their two dogs and one rabbit. Needless to say, I was ecstatic when a front-end loader appeared in the middle of the night to clear the road. If artists create work from their life experiences, no snowy landscapes were inspired by this blizzard. However, in retrospect, that was a relaxing vacation compared to what may be ahead.

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The high winds that are predicted when Hurricane Irma arrives are beyond my experience and understanding. As it stands, she may descend as a category four storm which potentially brings 145 mph blasts causing "catastrophic damage to property, humans, and animals. Severe structural damage to frame homes, apartments, and shopping centers ... long-term power outages and water shortages lasting from a few weeks to a few months." Let's see if I give birth to a storm-related painting in that aftermath.

  After the Flood , 2016, oil on canvas, 36 x 28 inches

After the Flood, 2016, oil on canvas, 36 x 28 inches

The last time I was inspired by the weather was in 2016 (see After the Flood above). The summer rains seemed relentless. So constant and heavy that a leak developed not only in my studio but on the front porch of the house as well. To repair the leaks meant waiting weeks until the rains actually stopped. Only after things dried out a bit could the roofs be addressed.

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This is how my studio looked this morning. All doors and windows clad with plywood. It was built five years ago to the latest codes intended to withstand a strong storm. In the walls are steel rods, spaced at three-foot intervals, that connect the roof to the concrete slab foundation. We'll see how that works. However, our house (not shown) was built in 1925. It's a bungalow like almost all the other homes in the Kenwood neighborhood where we live. When constructed, none of the strict building codes were in place yet, but the house stands proudly after experiencing all the storms since then.

Irma will be on her way out on Monday, three days from now. Let's see how this experience affects me. I'm curious to see what sort of images it will inspire. Hopefully, I'll still have a studio.

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