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The Black Forest fire, which started June 11 northeast of Colorado Springs, has been deemed the costliest in state history, taking out more than 500 homes and many other buildings. Surely, the loss of every house represents a tragedy for the people who lived there. But in one case, the loss of a particular house — the Wynne home and studio — is more than that: It's the greatest disaster in the history of Colorado art.
That's because inside was nearly the entire life's work of Lou Wynne, an accomplished ceramics artist, and her late husband, Al Wynne, who was among the state's premier abstract painters. The family plans to sort through the rubble, hoping to salvage some of the ceramics, though hundred of Al's paintings and watercolors were completely lost.
Black Forest Fire
Lou told me that on that day, she and her daughter, Marsea Wynne, were just finishing up a garden they had been working on when they noticed puffs of smoke coming down the road. Lou, Marsea, and her brother, John Wynne, loaded up the three cars that were at the house with some of the most important pottery, but only a few of the smaller paintings would fit — Al being known for his large works. About a mile out, Marsea wanted to turn back to cut Al's masterpiece — "November 22, 1963" (pictured) — off its stretchers to save it. But by that time, the road was choked with smoke.
For days, the family didn't know the status of their home. But when the Humane Society went looking for the family cat, Angelou, they discovered that the house and studio had both burned to the ground. This was confirmed by the fire chief of Black Forest, who, standing in front of the house, said that it had collapsed into the crawl space, but the studio, which had been built on a concrete slab — and was crammed with one Wynne masterpiece after another — was simply gone. To see many of the now-lost pieces, go to alandlouwynne.com.