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From the Ashes Art

Following My Muse
Robert T. Nanninga
Surf City Times
January 7, 2004

 

The day after Christmas, fate found me in Ramona of all places having breakfast with friends. The occasion was more than just seasons greeting, plans needed to be made for a home renovations, and our friend Mark is our contractor. So mixing business with pleasure we were able to catch up and make plans for the future. Mark is a busy man, as he is highly sought after eco-friendly craftsman. Little did I suspect the morning had much in store for me.

During breakfast Mark spoke of the work he was doing with world-renowned artist and architect James Hubbell. I knew that they collaborated on alternative housing structures and the occasional custom door. What I didn't know was Mark and his wife Ingrid were helping Hubble clean up after the recent Cedar Fire. The famed Hubbell compound was not spared. Lost to the inferno were the main house, the studio/workshop, and several storage sheds.

Besides helping restore power and rebuild the damaged structures Mark took on the task of marketing the remnants of the firestorm. As the fire engulfed the compound the second floor of the workspace, where stained glass doors and windows were created, collapsed into the bottom floor, the result of which was a melted mess of glass and twisted metal. While shifting through the Hubbell rubble, they noticed new works of art amongst the debris. Mark and his wife were now in the process of mounting the melted glass into sculpted art pieces.

After breakfast, it was time to look at some of the finished work, and works in progress. Resembling 3-dimensional, multi-colored Rorschach blotters, these small sculptures were more than just groovy conversation pieces; they were pieces of history and reminders of nature's fury when Santa Ana winds come to San Diego.

After purchasing two sculptures, one that resembled a flame frozen in time, the other a small stack of fused glass in red, yellow, and orange, we decided to follow our muse and Mark up to the Hubbell compound to see the restoration work in progress, and view for ourselves the extent of the damage.

Talk about trippy. The Manzanita forest that surrounded the compound was charred and skeletal. Massive oaks looked as if they, like the Hubbell space, would rebound with a little time and a lot of patience. Scattered about the grounds were treasure piles of merged glass and steel. Three storage containers were turned into kilns by the heat of the October fire, melting everything inside to the point of liquid glass dripping from the fused containers.

In the studio, tools had partially melted into cooling glass, and in the kitchen of the main house lamps and utensils did the same, creating artistic testaments to the randomness of art and flame. It will be years until the bounty of the fire is fully realized and the artist's compound returned to full productivity. Made of stone and steel, poured cement and ceramic tiles, the majority of the structures survived with only wood and contents being lost. The walls are still stand so rebuilding will be easier than were they not.

Soon these pieces of Fire sculpture will be made available through the Ilan Lael Foundation. For more information I recommend contacting the folks at www.hubbellandhubbell.com.

 
 
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