All Images Copyright of James Mellick
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The Art of James Mellick: Burning of Ol' Yeller
                                     The Burning of Ol’ Yeller, 1988
                                                     34” x 40” x 14” 
                              Collection of Ann Snowberger, Seattle, WA

Ol' Yeller, like Davey Crockett and Mickey Mouse, are icons of growing up in the 1950's and 60's. They symbolize an era of innocence, morality and security in the United States. Davey Crockett represented pioneer patriotism; Mickey Mouse represented a group consciousness of popular culture and Ol' Yeller combined this country's love for the outdoors and companionship with the dog. Ol' Yeller is not only symbolic by name but allegorical in that a dog, like the environment, is vulnerable to the trust place in humans. "The Burning of Ol' Yeller" was finished while the fires in Yellowstone National Park were still smoldering.

The viewer who is not used to looking for symbolism or meaning in art may be more than put off by the image of a dog with its back on fire, but I'm not sure that understanding my intent would make any difference. Today, I'm not sure that I agree with my initial intent born out of the emotions of the event at that time. Artists tend to look at events on an emotional level while scientists, who have their own political disagreements, seem to be more political and less empirical.

When I lived in the idealistic environment of academia, it was easy for me to have a more "liberal" view of the world. Now one might say that I've been "mugged by reality" . Maybe it is the shrill voices and far-out causes of organizations like "PETA" that have turned me off to some environmental concerns and I'm now skeptical of "Chicken Little's" calls that the "sky is falling".

I did not like seeing one of our national parks, a place that I've not been able to visit, going up in flames, but I now understand that Nature starts its own fires, and a fire for the forest is part of the cycle of life. Maybe the fires were not encouraged by the hot temperatures of the "greenhouse effect", the destruction of the Amazon Rain Forest or the depletion of the ozone in the atmosphere, but I still believe that, in the delicate balance of ecological systems, if one has their thumb on one end of the scales, one cannot practice a laissez-faire, hands-off attitude on the other end. We may need to step in and correct the imbalance that is of our own making.