Eric Edward Esper, ‘The Chicago Water Crib Fire’, 2013, Gallery Victor Armendariz

The Water Crib Fire
Wednesday January 20th 1909, one mile offshore on the Chicago south side, at 70th Street, approximately 100 workers were living on the intermediate crib. This structure was atop a shaft leading 180 feet down to a tunnel the workers were digging between the water crib, a mile further out, and the shore to bring fresh water to the city. As fire broke out on that cold morning, men jumped into the icy water to escape the flames. Soon, the tugboat TT Morford, seeing the flames from the crib came to the rescue, saving around 20 lives.

But, since the men were all poor immigrants, the death toll was an estimate and much remains a mystery surrounding the fire.

Eric Edward Esper

After obtaining my BFA in Illustration from Northern Michigan University in 1996 I relocated to Chicago to pursue my artistic endeavors. Here, I began exclusively oil painting and have assembled a body of paintings chronicling scenes of Chicago done primarily in plein air.

Capturing parts of the city’s landscape during its cultural evolution had been my way of conveying history as a painter. My fascination with landscapes and history has led me to create oil paintings of scenes that have affected us in dramatic ways. Recently I have begun painting aerial views of locations that have interesting historical significance, encapsulating true stories that are hard to imagine and harder to forget. My latest paintings capture these places and depict them with historically accurate attention to detail. Using various sources I recreate these scenes with as many photographs of every angle of the incident and research the stories, submersing myself in the event. My newest body of paintings depicts events with a more historically tragic significance, depicting scenes of the darkest hours in America’s Midwest history, where the landscape became the backdrop for tragedy and calamity. These events that irrevocably altered so many lives are important to remember, not only for the people lost and how it affected our culture, but also to remind us that disaster can occur at any time, anywhere.

About Eric Edward Esper