When writer and historian Ray Hudson was contacted by a BBC producer and asked to select a work of art from Alaska to write an essay about, he chose Unalaska artist Carolyn Reed’s drawing “Touching Fire.”
Ray Hudson’s essay was included in a five-part series by the BBC called Art in a Cold Climate. The series featured five authors writing about the significance of a work of art to their homelands. Other essays examined art from Norway, Greenland, Iceland, and Canada. Hudson said he chose “Touching Fire” because it is an iconic image of life in the Aleutian Islands and it allowed him to discuss more general aspects of Alaska while staying centered in the Aleutians. His essay used the drawing to consider how Alaska is caught between the fire and the sea: between the state’s innate beauty and the effort to exploit its wealth in natural resources.
Artist Carolyn Reed told KUCB that she has been using fire as a theme in her art since 1997. She said it’s challenging to recreate fire in a work of art:
“When you look at fire, say at a bonfire, there are no borders. Borders or ‘lines’ are based on drawing houses or hills. To be able to draw fire and let the edges quietly merge or dissolve into other areas through color and intense shadow/contrast, well, it is extremely difficult thing technically to do. Most of the time, these fire drawings on paper exhaust me. I can only work on them a few hours in the studio at a time. And when I do, they are incredibly challenging for me as an artist but also inspiring due to the mysteries of what might happen.”
If you’re in Unalaska, Carolyn invites you to come see the piece in person. You can find it on display in her shop in the Intersea Mall across from Unisea’s Harborview Bar and Grill.
Ray Hudson’s essay is available on demand on BBC’s website.