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Arts & Ideas: A Q&A with artist, Rosemarie Fiore

January 26, 2018 // by Caitlin Swindell

Have you ever seen someone paint with firework smoke? This Saturday, artist Rosemarie Fiore will perform at Space 42, using The Quad Axel, a tool that allows her to create smoke paintings - two of which are currently on view at MOCA Jacksonville in Call & Response: Reinterpreting MOCA Jacksonville's Permanent Collection. We asked her to share her process as an artist with us.

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© ROSEMARIE FIORE, Smoke Painting, 2012, smoke fireworks, pole, paper, paper, Sky City: Smoke Painting Tool, photo: Ross Willows, courtesy of: Rosemarie Fiore Studio and Art OMI, Ghent, NY.

Tell us a little about yourself. Have you always known that you wanted to be an artist?

As an artist, the act of creating is central in my life. I have always been interested in objects, creators, and the process of creating. I am geared this way, and it's how I process what's around me. It's who I am and where I come from when I interact with the world.

You have used materials as diverse as lawn mowers and pinball machines to create your art. How did you get started working with pyrotechnics and fireworks?

The machines/mechanisms I use to create paintings are fundamentally paintbrush tools. I employ them to apply pigment and create paintings. I began painting on paper with pyrotechnics in 2001-02 while on a twelve month residency in Roswell, New Mexico. Since then, I've developed and fine tuned my Smoke Painting process through new tool designs. I keep the Surrealist Fumage process in mind as a point of reference. Each Smoke Painting tool harnesses the colored smoke in different ways and creates distinctive marks and stains.

 

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©ROSEMARIE FIORE, Smoke Painting Tool: The Quad Axel, 2015. Resin, plaster, glitter lacquered wood, metal, foil, caster wheels. Courtesy of Rosemarie Fiore Studio and Von Lintel Gallery.

The devices that you create, like The Quad Axel, on view in MOCA's exhibition Call & Response are artworks in and of themselves. How do you conceive of these objects? Do you paint them and name them after working with them?

Ongoing research into firework history lead me to the "Green Man." The Green Man was a figure of mythical/pagan origins. He dressed in foliage and garlands traditionally leading processions in medieval times. The Green Man was known to wield a "Fire Club," which was a fire spitting staff filled of bundles with lit fireworks. I wanted to create tools that were designed after the Green Man's staff. It was during a residency at Art OMI in Ghent, NY that I designed the first prototype Smoke Painting tool or pyrotechnic paintbrush inspired by this research. The Quad Axel is the device currently on view at MOCA. As a Smoke Painting tool, it's designed to hover low to the ground and is rolled and twirled using a pole. It turns quite fast. Once it is loaded and lit, smoke is expelled from the smoke canisters and contained within the tool. Smoke shoots out of the bottom forming colorful, swirling patterns as it rotates. All my tools are unique. I name the tools in order to identify them. Sometimes a tool is named right away before I finish building it. Often, it's named after I've used it. Some can remain unnamed for many years.

08 Rosemarie Fiore Smoke Painting # 34 (1)-885 crop
© ROSEMARIE FIORE, Smoke Painting #34, 2013. Color Smoke firework residue on paper. Courtesy of Rosemarie Fiore and Von Lintel Gallery.

What is the movement like once you begin smoke painting? Are there challenges working with these materials?

I make each rolling tool cater to the specifics of my body. during the design phase, I focus on movement, weight, and size. The tools must be as light as possible, perform well, and be easy for me to manage. I re-sculpt some tools many times altering the design until it fits me well. When I use a tool, I become connected to it and its motion. The movement is very fluid and unified.

Smoke is sensitive to weather. Atmospheric changes have a say in determining the characteristics of a painting's image and color tones. Over time, I've learned to embrace the weather as best I can when creating my paintings.

In addition to the use of color and kaleidoscopic effect, bright colors also appear to be central to the Smoke Paintings. How do you use and explore color? Is there an element of collage in some of these works?

Color is so important. It takes time and a lot of patience to paint with colored smoke because there are many variables in the process that determine and influence color. I mentioned weather and atmosphere, but also the characteristics of the fireworks and tools themselves. Then, there is my role within the process and the decisions that I make while in the moment. Colored smoke fireworks are sold in basic colors with little variety: red, yellow, green, orange, pink, purple, and blue. The Smoke Painting tools and containers I've designed allow for color mixing within the chambers creating shifting hues and saturations. The longer the color smoke settles on the paper, the deeper and more saturated the color gets. When I work on a painting, it tells me which areas need to be opened up. I respond through collage. I cut and gather paper color work, overlapping and changing forms. I then respond to my collage decisions using my tools and containers. This action is repeated may times, gradually creating a painting with dimensional space that's rich with color.

Join Rosemarie Fiore for a performance of "Smoke Painting" this weekend at a free event sponsored by MOCA Jacksonville and Space 42. Click here for event details.

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