Even as he saw flames encroaching on the hills behind his home in Santa Rosa’s Coffey Park neighborhood, Chris Henry didn’t think he was about to lose the house he’d lived in for the past 14 years.
“I had no idea what these fires could do,” says the 56-year-old artist when we meet at a downtown Santa Rosa coffee shop. As we talk, he often glances at his phone to make sure he doesn’t miss a call from a family member or insurance agent. Since the flames took his home several weeks ago, his life has been filled with constant phone calls as he tries to put the pieces back together — so much so that he hasn’t had a chance to think about painting, even though he has clients expecting commissions.
“No, my focus isn’t there, partly because I have a new career: It’s being on the phone with insurance people,” he says with a half smile.
Henry is an abstract expressionist painter whose work is well-known around Sonoma County. He exhibits at Terra Firma Gallery in Sonoma and, for the past dozen years, he’s opened his studio to the public for the annual ArtTrails, a county-wide art crawl that takes place each year in October.
ArtTrails coincided with this year’s disastrous wildfires, and Henry had been looking forward to showing local art lovers his new studio, which he spent the summer building out in his garage. He estimates there were between 25 and 30 paintings in the studio, including a self-portrait he painted over 30 years ago. In a backyard shed were more expensive art supplies, including bronze sheeting and glass for mixed-media works.