When Brandi Twilley was just 16 years old, her childhood home in Oklahoma burned to the ground. Luckily, Twilley was not inside the house at the time, but the dramatic memories of the event still remain stashed away in her mind; the event has culminated into a series of darkly brooding paintings, titled The Living Room.
Haunting and never straining to be overly real, the look of each piece is diffused by haziness—sometimes the effect is a rational depiction of smoke gathering around the fierce flames, while other times it seems a byproduct of an unclear retelling of the past.
“[Twilley uses] free association to let the paintings take shape, following what felt familiar and real,” writes a representative of Sargent’s Daughter Gallery, where the exhibition is displayed. The paintings combine the “imagined landscape of childhood” with tangible memories, mingling to a furious retelling of the past.
With every new painting, Twilley draws out more fragments of her history leading up to the disastrous fire. Every new angle is a chance to explore a facet of Twilley’s past, as if through a snapshot of time doused with the artist's imagination and some flame retardant.
Sharp wisps of fire augment scenes that formerly were dreary and desolate, looking as if the last inhabitants inside the home are a longtime gone. The bone-tingling sensation of seeing a recurrent bed frame, a grid of drawers left open while a TV flickers, stirs a sadness inside the viewer.
See the evolution of Twilley's The Living Room in the selections below: