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Burning art for a good cause

Kitty Mitchell in her crown of sea shells at her "Burning Woman" beach bonfire.

Kitty Mitchell in her crown of sea shells at her “Burning Woman” beach bonfire.

By Connie Leinbach

Erin McKloskey was thrilled to rescue one last painting from Kitty Mitchell’s “Burning Woman” beach fire last week.

Prior to the burn, Mitchell held a fire sale, as it were, of dozens of her old paintings, earmarking half of the proceeds to Elizabeth Hanrahan, the island wildlife rehabilitation specialist.

Unsold paintings were to be burned, and when the fire was lighted Aug. 9 at the Lifeguard Beach only seven paintings got the torch.

Mitchell, who is the art teacher at Ocracoke School, was motivated to clear out several decades’ worth of old work while she continues to create new pieces.

Her new paintings will be on view starting Aug. 24 from 5 to 8 p.m. in Down Creek Gallery’s continuing “Expose Yourself to Art” receptions to which all are invited.

“Burning Woman” borrowed from the annual “Burning Man” temporary community art event every Labor Day weekend near Reno, Nevada

Mitchell and her daughter, Katy, had created a metal armature in the form of a woman and festooned it with colorful paper and streamers. Gary Mitchell, Kitty’s husband and Katy’s father, videoed the event.

Erin McKloskey of Hollidaysburg, Pa., shows the painting she rescued from Mitchell's fire.

Erin McKloskey of Hollidaysburg, Pa., shows the painting she rescued from Mitchell’s fire.

While several friends watched, the wood and paintings caught fire, but the armature paper did not.

After a while, the armature fell down without becoming immolated as Mitchell had hoped.

Mitchell, who wore a crown of seashells created by Rita King Lawrence,  an occasional visitor from Germany who travels the country in her van, said she raised about $1,000 for Hanrahan, who rescues and rehabilitates all kinds of island wildlife year-round.  

Hanrahan, who does her work as a volunteer, pays for all of the work herself or from donations.  She also accepts volunteers to help with injured birds and other wildlife that often are discovered following storms.

Mitchell will turn over the check to Hanrahan when she collects all of the proceeds. 

McKloskey and her family, husband Kevin and children Meredith and Carson, visiting the island from Hollidaysburg, Pa., came to the beach that evening to have their own beach fire.

“We noticed the interesting sculpture,” McKloskey said as the “woman” burned.

The family was happy to rescue a colorful painting of sea stars.

“The kids wanted it,” she said. “It will remind us of our beautiful vacation here.”

To view Gary’s video of the burn, click here.

Kitty Mitchell, center, gets 'war paint' before the burn. With her, from left, are daughter Katy, neice Lauren, and husband, Gary, who filmed the event.

Kitty Mitchell, center, gets ‘war paint’ before the burn. With her, from left, are daughter Katy, niece Lauren Martin of Gaithersburg, Md., and husband, Gary, who filmed the event.

"Burning Woman," by Kitty Mitchell, will among her new works on view starting Aug. 24 in Down Creek Gallery.

“Burning Woman,” by Kitty Mitchell, will among her new works on view starting Aug. 24 in Down Creek Gallery.