Loss and regrowth in metal and wood at the farmstand

David Briggs
A new mixed-media exhibit at the Gospel Flat Farmstand gallery explores time and powerlessness in sculptural meditations spurred by the artist's loss of his family home to wildfire.   
11/20/2019

From the remains of his family home that burned down last year, Bolinas sculptor and jeweler Kurtis Major has created an art exhibit using metals, woods, wax and concrete to capture the feeling of uncontrollable loss, on display at the Gospel Flat Farm gallery. Last November, Mr. Major woke up to a 5 a.m. phone call from his mother, who was being evacuated from the Woolsey Fire in Los Angeles County. He rushed down to Malibu, but the house ended up as one of the 1,643 structures destroyed in the blaze. “The fire swept quickly though my childhood memories, reshaping all of my material memories into an unrecognizable landscape,” he writes in his artist statement. “I had forgotten that time exists within a space beyond our ability to control its consequences.” To evoke that sense of no control, a squared-off white marble figure is intermixed with solid bronze, frozen mid-drip. The uniformity of the marble is juxtaposed with the randomness of the bronze. “The metal is going to flow in whatever capacity it wants to,” he said. “You can’t do anything about it.” Just as Mother Nature does through fire, Mr. Major strived to turn rectilinear objects back into their natural forms. At the front of the exhibit, a piece titled “I am sorry I wasn’t there” features two hourglass-shaped bronze figures on top of a fractured terracotta brick. The hourglasses, overflowing with material, represent an inability to control time, and the fractured brick represents the distance he felt from his mother that morning, he said. On the right wall of the gallery is a series of flower-shaped figures, forged out of copper and brass. The metal flowers grow out of wax colored green or blue—the colors Mr. Major observed in the burned metal of his home. One of the pieces uses aluminum from a pot; another uses metal from his father’s car. The most recent work in the exhibit features charred wood from the site of the Muir Fire, which burned 58 acres south of Stinson Beach on Oct. 24. At the time of the blaze, Mr. Major was in Southern California, and he worried about a repeat of the year before. “It brought a lot to the surface,” said Mr. Major, who owns a custom jewelry design studio in Sausalito. Although his personal story drove the exhibit’s creation, he said that all people can relate to the feeling of powerlessness. While fire may be driving that experience in California these days, hurricanes on the East Coast, famine in Africa and political turmoil in Latin America can all lead to the same emotion. “That sense of loss exists everywhere, and to me that is a connecting human quality,” he said. Kurtis Major’s exhibit, “Now This Is Home,” is on display from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Gospel Flat Farm gallery until the end of November.