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From Fire

The not-so-still life: A century of California painting and Sculpture
Susan Landauer, William H. Gerdts, Patricia Trenton

Collective and personal memory are also at the heart of the work of Kim Turos, whose former career as a landscape architect and marriage to the physicist John Gilleland have led her to focus on the increasingly delicate symbiosis of nature and society. Many of her works deal with the mutual forces of natural and man-made environments.

With Kitchen-aid of 1991-92 Turos has worked magic out of a natural disaster of immense proportions- the East Bay firestorm of 1991 that destroyed 2,475 houses and apartment buildings in less than twelve hours. Turos’s own house on Grand View Drive was close to the epicenter of the blaze. When she returned to the site she found that the fire had incinerated her home, leaving only a charred wasteland almost devoid of recognizable forms. One of the few relics that she pulled from the ashes was her dishwasher, which, along with its contents, had partly melted, turning an ordinary appliance into a biomorphic “blob-ject.” Most remarkable was nature’s fanciful “refiring” of Turos’s ceramic dishes -teacups from Prague, Austrian cups and pitchers, and Lenox china- and the mutation of her wedding crystal into grotesque blackened shapes that sparkle like cryolite. ‘* In Kitchen-aid, as in much of her work, Turos preserves the wonder of nature’s creation while seamlessly augmenting it with her own hand. She made silver-coated dishes that reflected the melted crockery, distorting them further like a fun-house mirror, and she fashioned plexi bubble. shaped portals to suggest that the dishwasher still contained suds. The final result is a work that is both whimsical and disturbing. The word “save.” which Turos scrawled in red lipstick on the appliance’s side when she recovered it from a mound of soot, expresses poignantly the calamity of the event and the resilience of the human spirit.

— Susan Landauer, Chief Curator San Jose Museum of Art (1999-2009)

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