Santa Rosa artist Adrian Litman, who lost his home in the Tubbs fire two years ago, wanted to make a simple, direct statement with his new metal sculpture.
He wanted to capture the importance of water in the often gut-wrenching work firefighters do every time an alarm goes off in the firehouse.
Mounted atop a waist-high slab of concrete in front of the Santa Rosa Fire Station 1 on Sonoma Avenue, the metal sculpture is of a giant heart made of silver, flowing water that surrounds red tongues of fire.
The piece is part of a Santa Rosa city arts program promoting the work of artists who were affected by the 2017 North Bay wildfires. Litman and his wife lost their home on Deer Trail Road during the fire, which reached down into the north end of Rincon Valley.
The retired couple had purchased the home in 2012 and Litman had converted a four-car garage into an art studio and office space. The 71-year-old sculptor lost everything, including unfinished artwork, his computer, tools and documents related to contracted artwork.
He said his wife took the loss harder than he did, but they both quickly embarked on their effort to rebuild. They lived in a trailer on the property for 1½ ?years while their home and the studio were reconstructed.
During that time, he was also able to complete all the prefire art projects he had been contracted to do. When he saw the city’s call for arts projects aimed at fire survivors, Litman started driving around the city for ideas, he said.
Litman, who is originally from Romania, came to the United States in 1980 as an artist. He received a master’s degree in graphic design from the University of Bucharest.
His first job in the states was working as a graphic designer at a small graphics shop Silicon Valley. He later became art director for an advertising agency and then ended up working as a senior designer for Visa International.
He retired in 2002 and started his own design studio in Fremont before moving up to the North Bay to take advantage of the cultural opportunities Sonoma County offered, he said.
For the city arts sculpture, Litman said he wanted to honor the work of local firefighters.
“I looked around Santa Rosa, parks, public places and I saw the fire station on Sonoma Avenue. I saw the concrete fire station sign and thought, I could put a sculpture on the concrete,” he said.
“I was trying to figure out something that was very easy to understand that could communicate the message right away to the public,” he said.
The Fire Department, he said, relies heavily on the use of water to put out fires, and he wanted to somehow show a flow of water from a fire hose that “would engulf the fire flames.” At the same time, he said, he wanted to give the piece an emotional feel, and came up with water in the form of a heart.
“Inside are flames coming out in the middle,” he said. “It’s very direct — this is water surrounding the flames.”
Santa Rosa Battalion Chief Matt Dahl said it’s always a “humbling experience” whenever someone goes out of their way to thank firefighters for the work they do, particularly when the gesture comes from someone who lost a home in the fire.
“And he still went out of his way to do that,” Dahl said. “Everybody kind of walks by it and smiles. … It’s clear that it’s from the heart.”
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