Painting Details
Watercolor on gessoed archival paper
76 x 50

I saw several trees in the immediate vicinity with this peculiar pattern of fire scarring. I surmise that the fire traveled underground through roots and burned the tree up from the base. This tree grew near the Stanley Glacier Trail in Kootenay National Park, British Columbia, and I painted it while in residence at the Banff Centre. I wanted the painting to have impact, so I made it taller than I am.

Ruth Nielsen photo of Burned at the Base in site-specific installation
Ruth Nielsen Photo


In January, I took it out to the woods to photograph it wrapped around a local tree. I would like to exhibit it on a half-round bas-relief column, emphasizing the contrast between idealized tree shape and this specific burnt specimen.


As the climate warms, forest fires are becoming more frequent and catastrophic in the western United States. My deep anxiety with the impacts of climate change on wilderness are emerging in this series. Burned-over areas of forest are riveting. Unfamiliar tree forms are newly exposed. Formerly hidden terrain features become visible. Normal greens, blues and browns are transformed. All the worst fires of the last fifty years have occured in the last five years.

Please contact me if you are interested in learning more about any of my images. All represent original paintings, not reproductions. I have many more paintings than are shown on this site. And, since I frequently work in series, there may be additional views of the subjects shown here.