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Firework Explosions Captured on Paper

Bronx artist Rosemarie Fiore harnesses the magic of color and smoke.

"Painters usually have to work with the element of gravity, with paint dripping down. With me it's the opposite. My materials want to shoot up, and the challenge is to force them down onto the paper," explains Rosemarie Fiore on the phone from Los Angeles, where a show of her paintings opened last weekend at Von Lintel Gallery. The works, which feature circular pools of rich colors, make up a new series entitled Eclipse. Like planets orbiting silently, they cross each other’s paths and seem to vibrate on the paper.

Smoke Eclipse #21, 2015, 28x 28 inches

Fiore lives and works in the Bronx and has been using found machinery to create artwork since her residency at Skowhegan, completed after her years in graduate school. Her first experiments with fireworks began during a stint in Roswell, New Mexico, with an accident. “I was lighting off a smoke bomb and dropped it, and as it moved it left a blue dotted line,” she says.

Photo by Ross Willows, courtesy of Rosemarie Fiore Studio and ART OMI, Ghent, NY

Since then she has crafted increasingly sophisticated tools to capture color and smoke. “At first I was just duct taping fireworks to a broomstick and dragging it along the paper,” she says. Now her laboratory includes various containers on wheels, with spouts specially designed so the lit smoke bombs hit the paper with the right pressure. The tools are perpetually in development: “While I’m creating the work, I’ll see that I can add a new extension. I’m always editing the tools and developing things.” For the Eclipse series, she modified a trash can lid and named it "Space Oddity."

She describes her process as a meditative dance on top of the paper, carried out in silence—these are smoke bombs, not fireworks with gun powder. “Some machines move better than others. It’s like a dance partner: when you have a good partner, you don’t have to force anything. You can anticipate each other’s movements and move together smoothly.” The dance has strict time limits: once the smoke bombs run out of pigment, the show is over.

Smoke Eclipse #52, 2015, 28x 28 inches

The Eclipse works are pared down compared to the larger paintings Fiore previously made with smoke bombs, which used collage to create hectic, layered compositions. “This show is much more about the simplicity of the smoke, about the colors interacting and creating subtle depths.” The use of a smooth printmaking paper also helped to yield those dreamy hues.

Larger pieces in this series are in the works. In coming months, Fiore will be collaborating with the metals department at UNC Greensboro to create a huge “eclipse maker tool” four feet in diameter.

Smoke Eclipse #42, 2015, 28x 28 inches

Smoke Eclipse #15, 2015, 28 x 28 inches

Space Oddity, Smoke Eclipse Painting Tool, 2015, 20 x 20 x 5 inches. Altered welded steel trash can lid, paint, wire, rubber stoppers, color smoke fireworks

Smoke Painting #36, 2013, 40 x 72 inches

To see more of Rosemarie Fiore’s work, including an archive of her firework paintings and drawings, visit her website.

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