An Australian artist, Katherine Boland, is overjoyed after discovering that her artwork, “Fire Flower No 8,” was given to US President Joe Biden by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese during a recent state visit.
Boland’s creation, “Fire Flower No 8,” is part of a series she produced in 2018 following a devastating bushfire that ravaged 70 homes in Tathra, New South Wales. Living in nearby Merimbula, Boland experienced the catastrophic black summer bushfires a year later. Both motivated her to use art to raise awareness of the climate crisis.
In an interview on Thursday, Boland said, “I am feeling a bit insane actually. It’s wonderful. I didn’t expect to get this sort of reach in my wildest dreams. To think I’m in the White House – it’s just so bizarre.” She also called herself “a tad hysterical.”
Her artwork, gifted to President Biden and First Lady Jill Biden, symbolizes the regeneration of native flora after bushfires. Boland used fire to scorch the timber surface, a powerful representation of renewal.
Boland was unaware that her painting had even been sold until her sister saw it on the evening news. The gallery kept the sale to the Australian government a secret due to protocol.
The Australian artist recently won the $15,000 sustainability category at the National Capital art prize in Canberra, a recognition that might have led the Australian government to choose her work as the gift to the Bidens.
Boland hopes that Prime Minister Albanese uses her painting as an opportunity to discuss climate change with President Biden. She has dedicated her art practice to raising awareness about climate change, emphasizing the urgent need for action. “It’s estimated 3 billion animals perished in those [black summer] bushfires. We didn’t see blue sky for six weeks. It was absolutely horrendous. And it’s not going away,” Boland said.
With her painting now in the White House, Boland humorously remarked, “I have an in with the US government now,” suggesting she may take advantage of this unique connection to advocate for environmental concerns and climate action.