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Scott Nellis

Fire Work Series
I was inspired to use fire as a subject when I burned an old piece of my art. This experience was the catalyst for a new beginning. The fire provided me with a rich source of powerful images. I photographed several small fires which I started next to my studio. In the process of reviewing the photographs, strange life forms seemed to emerge from the pictures as if to convey a message. I think of these forms as shadow delegates. They are emissaries from the unconscious.

The flames in the photographs became figures in the paintings and took on a fleshy, organic quality. This quality is now palpable in the pieces with relief elements, where depth is both three dimensional and illusionistic. My intent is to give the work a heightened physical reality which draws in the viewer.

I am particularly interested in the themes of initiation and transformation as they relate to fire. Initiation is experienced on two levels which merge in the act of creation. The first involves the physical act of painting, the goal of which is to make my vision concrete. The second is in the mind's eye where I take a metaphorical walk through the fire. On that journey I am required to reach through the flame down into the shadow and touch the monster. The shadow is the dark place in the human psyche, the contents of which are unknown until brought up into the light. To touch the monster is to know it. It is then illuminated and given a voice and a form. My work is about uncovering what was covered.

The process of transformation occurs on the painted surface and within my consciousness. I am transforming the power and energy of fire into paint. In return, my consciousness is expanded with a new awareness of my own creative power. The experience of making art rewards me with a heightened sense of being alive.

Rough Beast

The largest and most confrontational piece of the Fire Work series is titled "Rough Beast." This title refers to a line in the poem "The Second Coming" by W. B. Yeats. As the central figure in the painting became defined, a face emerged in a fiery rage like some beast from the underworld. This experience led me to recall the line in Yeats' poem which asks "And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, Slouches toward Bethlehem to be born?"

The figure in the painting can be seen as a manifestation of humanity's collective beast or as anyone's private demon escaping from the shadow. According to Yeats the beast in his poem may show up after "twenty centuries of stony sleep" and manifest itself as the Antichrist.

The devilish figure in the painting is also reminiscent of the monster in the 1956 seminal Sci-Fi film " The Forbidden Planet." In the film the monster is first encountered audibly by one of the earthship's crew and is described as "a sort of big breathing." The beast is invisible until shot with a ray gun. The blue ray beam illuminates a fiery, raging, big toothed, malevolent creature. It is described in the film as a " dark, terrible, incomprehensible force... sly and irresistible." The ship's doctor explains the monster as "the mindless primitive... the monster of the Id."

On this " Forbidden Planet" the all powerful monster cannot be stopped from destroying all in its path until the old scientist who inhabits the planet acknowledges that the monster is part of him.

The monster/beast serves as a warning that to deny our inner demons for too long may lead to catastrophe. By creating this series of fire paintings I am bringing my demons up into the light and asking them to speak.


1945 Born in Denver, Colorado


1967 University of Colorado, B.F.A.

1969 University of Colorado, M.F.A.

Teaching Experience

1967-1978 Faculty, Fine Arts Dept., University of Colorado at Denver,
Drawing, Painting and Printmaking.

Selected Exhibitions

1968 Northwest Printmakers, Spokane

1974 Colorado Artists, Denver Art Museum

1985 Sticks And Stones, Grant Street Art Center, Denver

1986 Solo Exhibition, First Interstate Tower, Denver

1993,94 Downtown Lives, Downtown Arts Development Assoc., Los Angeles

1997 New Mexico Contemporary, Albuquerque

Selected Public Collections

IBM, Denver, New York

Bank of America, Los Angeles

Exeter Oil, Denver

Occidental Chemical Corp., Philadelphia

Arthur Young & Co., Denver

American Bell, Buffalo,

AT&T, New York

Price Waterhouse, Buffalo

Humana Corp., Louisville

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