Comstock's magazine 0519 - May 2019 - Page 63

after the fire A muralist and photographer team up to paint and memorialize the ruins of the Camp Fire in Paradise BY SENA CHRISTIAN / PHOTOS: TERENCE DUFFY rtist Shane Grammer knew he had to paint the brick chimney the moment he saw a photo of it — the only part of a friend’s house in Paradise still stand- ing after the Camp Fire devastated the town. The fire started tearing through the area on Nov. 8, 2018, becoming the deadliest and most destructive wild- fire in California history. Grammer, who grew up in nearby Chico, saw so- cial media posts from many childhood friends who had lost their homes. When his friends, Shane and Jennifer Edwards, posted a photo of their destroyed house, he felt compelled to spray paint a mural of a woman with the chimney as his canvas. He had only intended to create that one mural, which he com- pleted on New Year’s Eve, and returned home to Los Angeles where he works as a freelance artist in the theme-park industry. Soon other displaced residents asked him to do more. “As an artist, I’ve spent my life trying to create art that moves people emotionally,” Grammer says. He had found his calling. Over the course of two weeks in Paradise, he painted 14 murals. Grammer’s artwork was documented by photog- rapher Terence Duffy for their project “Beauty From the Ashes.” Duffy recalls the morning he drove to the first site: “You pull in and you start to see fences and these plastic white-picket fences melted. Then you see the houses, and then all of a sudden you slow down — I rolled down my windows and turned the music off — and you see complete and utter devasta- tion that you’re not even ready to see.” Sacramento law firm Hughey Phillips covered the team’s expenses. “I followed the Paradise Camp Fire stories closely, and the images of total and complete destruction of families’ homes and belongings were heartbreaking,” says Partner Kevin Hughey. Then he saw a photo of the first mural. “[Grammer] called me a couple days later and explained the enormous emo- tional impact his mural had on his friend’s family and other Paradise victims. They were touching recounts that, to me, conveyed the victims were happy to not be forgotten about by people outside Paradise and, more importantly, that Shane’s work provided them a sense of hope and optimism about the future.” Hughey introduced Grammer to Duffy (both had previously done creative work for the law firm). Hughey says his firm was thrilled to be involved in a project that brought residents of Paradise at least a “little relief, hope or encouragement for the future.” Grammer says he has been blown away by the positive response to the project and the hope it has brought to the community. “It is something that has stamped me as an artist forever.” May 2019 | comstocksmag.com 63