Eric Edward Esper, ‘The Firestorm of Peshtigo’, 2017, Gallery Victor Armendariz

The Firestorm of Peshtigo
October 8 1871, the same night of the Great Fire of Chicago, and The Michigan forest fires. A cold front moved in from the west fanning land clearance fires out of control, reaching tornado force winds of up to 100 mile per hour, moving a wall of flame 5 miles wide across vast forests of northeast Wisconsin. It burned more than 1800 square miles or 1.2 million acres along both coasts of Green Bay 100 miles north to Michigan, destroying 12 communities, and an estimated death toll of 1200- 2500 people. Pestigo city had approximately 1750 residents at the time and had to bury more than 350 unidentified bodies in a mass grave.

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