Editor’s note: this was translated into English from French, the native language of artist Ronald Cyrille, aka Black Bird, of Guadeloupe in the Caribbean.
I was asked to share a little about the devastating studio fire that has affected by art career. I reside in a small art studio workshop in Guadeloupe, and on June 10, 2021 at 4 a.m. I was awakened by the sound of explosions. I descended the stairs quickly but the fire had already spread. Despite my attempt to salvage a few pieces, there was nothing left to save.
“Baignade Lunaire (Moonbathing),” one of Black Bird’s works destroyed in the June 2021 fire that will live on as an NFT as part of the “Origins & Ancestries” art drop.
By removing the back door of my atelier, I was able to recover two works of art that had been scorched by the fire. However, the heat of the flames pushed me back and singed me. The next day I had to leave to do a mural in New Mexico at the 515 Museum in Albuquerque.
In this fire I lost 20 years of my work in a few seconds — more than 5,000 works in all. In addition, I was coming out of a very dense period of creation with a residency with PAMM (Perez Art Museum in Miami) and the Memorial Acte in Guadeloupe and a residency at my studio. From these few months of work, I’d managed to create more than 310 works.
More than 5,000 works, a library, sketchbooks and new works all went up in smoke, including works that I hadn’t documented and archived unfortunately.
Black Bird’s brother Antonides Daniel cleaning up ashes in the aftermath of the art studio fire.
It was an inestimable loss and a big blur on my artistic future. There was nothing left. Everything had to be rebuilt and I was going to have to find the energy, the mental stamina, the patience and the inspiration to be able to bounce back. I was devastated. I was living a waking nightmare because I had nothing left. At the same time, I was grateful to be still alive and aware that if my brother and my neighbors had not prevented me from entering the place I could have lost my life.
When it happened, I had to find the strength to survive the type of experience many creators fear. It’s as if the flames had also taken my memories, a part of me, my hopes and my dreams — because during all these years I worked daily and everything that inspired me and animated me gave birth to a work.
As rapper Kerry James says in The Fight Continues, “Every wound I have has a work in stitches.”
“Diaspora Faces” and “Island Life,” two of Black Bird’s NFT artworks that are part of the “Origins & Ancestries” drop.
Troubled and hurt, I set to work because I wanted to believe that when life gives challenges, it takes stock to be reborn and hope for better days despite adversity. So I cleared my studio for safety issues for the public and then created a new series of works as part of an “Outsider” exhibition in the studio that allowed me to sell my work to buy equipment and hope to start to rebuild my studio.
Currently I have a new residency as a guest artist at the Mémorial Acte for one year (July 2022 to July 2023) and three exhibitions that are visible (“Exodus,” “Tigritude” and “Outsider”). I’m actively working in my studio for a new exhibition in a few months composed of paintings, drawings, collages, sculptures and a short film.
I’m a big believer in the “Origins & Ancestries” art drop. Most of my works in it are high-resolution digital images of my physical drawings and mixed media works that no longer exist — so the buyers of these 1-of-1 NFTs will have the only version in existence.
I have been reborn and hope for better days despite adversity. Sales of the NFTs in this drop will help the next phase of my career in paintings, drawings and collage. You can believe me! I’m not ready to give up!