Greedy, unscrupulous bankers and industrialists. Derelict engineers and builders. Corrupt government officials. Spurned public concern. Hundreds killed and homeless. No one culpable.

Sound familiar?

It's the disturbing subject for a new series of paintings by Frances Kidder (one of the artists in my "Seven Artists and a Toothbrush Factory" project) based on the Mill River flood of 1874 -- the first major dam disaster in the United States. The collapse of the slipshod dam and subsequent flood killed 139 people and wiped out four towns leaving 740 homeless. If you're interested in the backstory, here's a link to a short chronicle of the disaster:

Watching Frances reconstruct these scenes of destruction with paint, markers and scraps of paper was sometimes so interesting I forgot to take any pictures. Sketches were arranged and rearranged. Canvases were painted and repainted. Her muse whispered "not yet" again and again, until satisfied that each painting finally was done.

This week's photo shows the serious side of Frances seated in front of two of her completed paintings. The entire series will be exhibited at the Oxbow Gallery in Northampton, MA in February, 2018.


Brushworks, Florence, MA; March, 2017

p.s. If you google "Frances Kidder," the first result is titled "Frances Kidder - The last woman to hang in public." Yes, convicted in 1868 for drowning her step-daughter and hanged before "a well behaved, but quite small crowd estimated at 2,000 people." (Keep scanning!) Our artist Frances Kidder is alive and well. ;-)

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