Visionary Artist December 2007
If you travel on the 78 East from Ramona, passed the charred remnants of homes, melted fences and posters praising the firefighters who did their best during the month of October, 2007, eventually the land comes back to life. There are oak trees, sagebrush, country landscapes—drier than ever, but untouched by the latest firestorms. Further up the mountain, three miles west of Julian, is Wynola. To pass by without stopping here would be a shame. In this little roadside enclave, there is a magical place where the rubble of devastation is turned into works of beauty.
If you arrive at the Charlotte Mitchell Studio Gallery before dusk, you can see the sun sparkle through the colors that swoop through Mitchell’s glass creations. The artist will be there as well to greet you with a poem and a listening ear. Since opening in March of this year, Charlotte Mitchell’s gallery has become a place where hearts charred not only by fire, but by a variety of life’s burns and bruises, are healed. For Mitchell, who has been creating with glass for over twenty years, the act of incorporating fire rubble into her art began during the Cedar Fires of 2004. Mitchell helped her neighbors pick up the pieces in the aftermath.
“I would not leave a single person,” says Charlotte, of those who had lost their homes, “…like this woman who was just sitting there in the ruins of her life…I said, ‘You know, if there is one thing you could find, what would it be?’ Her father had given her a sterling silver sculpture of a mother horse and her baby. The church had helped her [find one part] but they could not find the little one. We found it—and then she could stop.”
first, Mitchell did not know what she would do with the remnants of so
many people’s memories. Four months later, however, she began to work with
the pieces folks had given her. At first, the creations were dark and solid,
as if they were trying to anchor themselves to the dusty ground. Gradually,
however, lightness and whimsy began to shine through. The journey of healing
from tragedy, explains Mitchell, is as unique as each individual.
“One guy took two years…and finally he said, ‘I am ready now to get rid of this stuff…Just make me a cross with [it all]. I did and that brought him back. It made him heal, not instantly, but it began the process .” -NLP
The Charlotte Mitchell Studio Gallery is located at 4336 Hwy 78, 3 miles west of Julian, CA., 760.765.2569. Visit her online at www.themitchellstudio.com.