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“Sun will rise over Marshall again”

By Kalene McCourt

Daily Camera

When tragedy strikes, art has a way of providing a bit of comfort and solace.

Artist Anne Gifford — who has lived in and around the Boulder County community of Marshall for over four decades — took to her canvas after last year’s Dec. 30 blaze wiped out more than 1,000 homes in the area.

Gifford’s “A Tribute to Marshall: Painting My Way Through Healing” can be seen through Friday at the East Boulder Recreation Center. In February and April, it will move to the Boulder Public Main Library for an exhibition.

The 10 intricate watercolor works show lush, grassy fields, delicate blooms and vibrant trees — the state in which they were before being consumed in flames.

In “Recess at the Cherryvale Schoolhouse” playing children are painted in a muted tone, an homage to those who resided in the area decades prior. The depicted schoolhouse was one of the structures that made it through the Marshall fire, although the trees and land surrounding it were scorched.

In her painting “Old Marshall,” a classic mid-century blue car and driver — also faded like the schoolchildren — drives down a rural road framed by fall foliage and a grouping of mailboxes, with last names of families displayed on the silvery tin.

Accompanied by photographs and text explaining the significance and locale of each painting, Gifford’s moving collection provides a beautiful glimpse into the natural beauty and community of an area that banded together and worked hard through the toughest of times.

Although Gifford was fortunate, upon returning after being evacuated, to find her house still standing, some of her family members and friends weren’t as lucky.

Her work is every bit a love letter to the pristine and serene spaces that dotted the area before the fire as it is to the resilience of neighbors who have helped each other rise from charred rubble and start to rebuild.

We caught up with the skilled creator — who has designed eight of the Bolder Boulder Race posters — to find out more about her latest work, what she hopes viewers take away and what we can expect next from her creatively.

Q What inspired you to want to create this moving collection, and do you think it will provide some comfort to those still dealing with last year’s Marshall fire?

A So many in our community have suffered great loss due to the Marshall fire, and my own family was no exception. My son’s father lost his home in the fire, and two months later, we lost his dad to cancer. My “Tribute to Marshall” series emerged as I turned to my painting to work through my own feelings of loss and grief. It was my hope that in the process I might help others to do the same.

Having lived in Marshall for 40 years — both since the fire and before — I have done paintings that portray the beauty, as well as my historical perceptions of the area. The paintings in this show include notable buildings and landscapes, which capture the rural flavor of Marshall. After the fire, I took corresponding post-fire photographs to display with each painting and then wrote a short paragraph in order to tell the back story behind the artwork.

Q How did it feel to return home after being evacuated to find your home still standing, and how did you support family members and friends who weren’t as lucky?

A It would be a falsehood to say that I was not grateful and relieved that my house was among the survivors. My heart, however, was broken for all of those who had lost so much. I went with my son to survey what was left of his childhood home.

Later we gathered favorite rocks from a charred stone wall with which we would create a memorial garden to his father in my son’s yard. One of the most difficult moments for us was when FEMA had to remove two enormous 150-year-old cottonwood trees from the property.

Their towering branches had formed a stalwart umbrella over the house and land since Marshall was a mining town.

I am currently painting a portrait of a house that was lost in the fire, and it has been quite emotional as I can feel the owners’ love and loss for their home as I paint. I hope my painting will contribute to their healing.

Q Would you say art has always been a therapeutic outlet for you?

A Absolutely. When painting, I become completely immersed in what I am doing, leaving no room for stray thoughts.

Q What are you hoping viewers take away from the collection, and is the work for sale?

A The residents of the entire Boulder Valley were traumatized, and the community came forth with an outpouring of love and support. I hope that those whose lives were indelibly altered will be reminded that they are not alone and will continue to feel the comfort of this collective embrace.

It is my hope that my Marshall paintings will cause us to reflect upon what is beautiful in our area and remember not to take the familiarity of that beauty for granted.

My series culminates with a promising message of renewal and hope.

Hope in the form of a daffodil as it emerges from a charred garden. Hope in the form of new growth as it transforms the blackened hillsides into a carpet of vivid green grasses. Hope in the form of three brightly lit Christmas trees, exactly where they have been every year at the end of a driveway on Cherryvale Road. They cast just enough muted light for us to make out the foundation of a new home, and we know that the sun will rise over Marshall again.

Giclée prints of all paintings are available for sale, as well as a selection of the original watercolors.

Q What can we expect next from you? Any goals for 2023?

A There will be more of my signature Colorado landscapes that illustrate our magnificent surroundings.

More recently I have additionally been inspired to paint my interpretation of current circumstances or modes of thought, and as inspiration arises, I expect more of this type of artwork will unfold.

One of the most rewarding aspects of my long career is that it has provided me with the opportunity to bring joy and reflection into the lives of others through my artwork and my teaching, and that is why I paint.




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