Ashes to Alchemy
Malibu artist Kandy Lozano lost her studio and much of her artwork in the Woolsey Fire but instead of letting it keep her down, Lozano sought inspiration from it and now creates beautiful new pieces using ashes and soot from the fire.
Written by Michele Willer-Allred
In her studio on Kanan Road, Malibu resident Kandy Lozano would create beautiful works of art utilizing special, one-of-a-kind tools, paper, and other materials she collected over the past 30 years as an artist. The Woolsey Fire changed all of that, destroying her studio and everything inside of it, including works in progress and completed commissioned works.
Lozano was left devastated after losing her beloved studio and belongings, as well as seeing the Malibu community she loved end up losing so much in the fire. The experience inspired her to create a unique collection of paintings, which were shown recently in the “Ashes to Alchemy” exhibit at the art gallery, CANVAS.MALIBU.
Jacqueline ‘Jac’ Forbes, owner of CANVAS.MALIBU, curated the collection of Lozano’s artwork, which combines the encaustic painting technique while incorporating ashes and soot from the Woolsey Fire. A portion of the exhibit proceeds went to The Boys and Girls Club of Malibu Emergency Relief Fund. Lozano said the strength of the community’s human spirit was tested following the fire. “I wanted to create a collection that honors the loss and yet, celebrates the renewal of life and the human spirit,” Lozano explained. “Ashes to Alchemy is a resurgence and transformation from the destruction into something beautiful while each piece expresses glimpses of hope.”
When she returned to Malibu after the fire, Lozano looked at the ash and pieces left behind and saw something different than most people. “As an artist, you might see something that may look like trash to someone else, but it inspires you. You see potential and beauty,” Lozano said. “I just had this thought to collect it and do something with it and my art.” Lozano collected the ash and soot in mason jars, but had to do so quickly before the rains came following the fire.
Adding ash to encaustic paintings is actually something that early artists did when using the technique, which dates back to early 1st century BC. Encaustic painting involves an intricate process of using heated natural beeswax and dammar resin (crystallized tree sap from Indonesian trees) mixed with colored pigments. Heated metal tools are used to shape or move the wax around, and other tools shape the paint.
An accomplished encaustic painter in her own right, Lozano embedded the ash into her paintings, creating a unique coloration and texture with added complexity. All the elements make for beautiful layering, a building of a story, in each of her paintings. At first, Lozano said she found the ash difficult to work, but ended up finding a way to chisel it down fine enough. She found working with the ash very soul-stirring, often pausing to ponder if the ash was once part of a photo, a door, or the remains of a treasured memento.
Lozano said the Woolsey Fire completely changed the way she works. She said many people have moved on from the fire, but for those that lost everything, it is sometimes a struggle.
But, like many in the Malibu community, she wants to move forward in a positive direction. She plans to continue making more of the paintings, which has helped many to reflect but with something beautiful. “This is a place to go, a way to give back,” she said of her work. MM
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