Samantha Fields is a disaster artist. “Disaster, from massive storms and wildfires to political collapse and personal tragedy, fascinates and troubles me.” Fields’ paintings are an inventive update of traditional allegorical landscape painting: ominous vistas and environmental calamities portrayed with a deadpan, analytical accuracy that underlines the fragility of life and the certitude of death and disaster. The wildfire paintings are based on her own photographs. Of late, she says, she can pick and choose among Southern California conflagrations. Some have been close by her own southwest-facing hillside house in the Mount Washington neighborhood of Los Angeles.
Fields presents the viewer with images of mysterious manufacture. “I paint atmosphere with atmosphere,” she says. There is no touch of hand, no texture of paint. She sprays coat after coat of vaporized acrylic paint onto super smooth canvas. “It takes hundreds of layers to create the paintings, which while photographic, deny the accuracy of that medium upon closer inspection.” In the end, the paintings feel as shadowy as the drifting blurs of vapor, smoke, and haze they reference. Their gossamer, ethereal quality invokes the sublime. But the tenuous insubstantiality undermines certainty, questioning the veracity of photography, of memory, of perception itself.