New work, new direction: “Broken Waters”

For over two years I’ve been fully immersed in data about the state of the natural world. Being in science labs and “in the field” has filled me with overwhelming worry and dread about what’s to come for my kids, your kids, anyone alive today or yet to be born. I’ve often had to think about the appropriateness of the resulting artwork for general audiences, but now that my last residency is wrapped up the filters are going out the window. It’s time to process in my studio what it means to be human, fertile, godlike, destructive, panicked and deeply, profoundly grateful.

In this new chapter you’re going to see more provocative work. I’m eager to focus on difficult truths versus leading with agreeable aesthetics of the natural world. Allowing myself to dig into (or perhaps wallow in) the darker trains of thoughts about human impact on nature has also inspired me to write about the work on my easel. And with that, I give you the first finished painting and two written reflections. I hope to hear what it elicits in you.

painting titled "Broken Waters" by artist Ashley Cecil detail of painting titled "Broken Waters" by artist Ashley Cecil detail of painting titled "Broken Waters" by artist Ashley CecilBroken Waters
36″x48″ acrylic and oil on canvas
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One Water
All of the water on this planet is all that’s ever been. What was once frozen in a glacier now pumps hot in your blood. What once festered in a swamp now comes out of your showerhead. The water of Jesus’s miraculous wine is still here, now in your toilet.

Until our upper hand on nature, water was self-purifying. The stones and roots and currents and clouds cleaned it as cycled between piss and holy water.

We’re steeping this substance of life like a tea, but no creation of god can remove the bits and pieces and blackness. No, now like a drop of ink in my paint cup, the darkness will swirl in tiny hurricanes until it dissipates between every molecule – a little everywhere for everyone.

Hell’s Cold Restart
Demons and their disease featured in your fiery scripture to keep children in line wait in unexpected places. Places of uninhabitable cold.

Undertakers frozen in their tracks and flattened by the weight of earth’s crust patiently wait their turn. They wait for us to signal for them with our digging and fires. We’ve gone mad looking, actually looking for them.

Down we’ve gone to exhume the flora of another era. We bring it up to the land of the living and light it on fire – a smoke signal to summon them. It wafts in the atmosphere, swirling in place like a snuffed candle into a glass dome.

Now their glacial and permafrost prisons crumble. You can hear the locks click open just before the ice calves into the sea. These first warnings are usually for coastal inhabitants – beware of rising water! But that’s simply their lure to get us to huddle together inland where the dying will circulate faster.

All this water that was once holdup at either ends now invites the vectors of disease to carry the likes of anthrax and bubonic plague to your crowded elevated refuge. There, all manners are death, both of the body and mind, are highly contagious.

The fire we started was an invitation to the devil to reign over this warming eden, a hell of our own making freed from ice.