Rising from the Ashes

The Chimney Tops 2 Wildfires in Memory and Art

  • Author(s): Bales, Stephen Lyn
  • Series:
  • Imprint: UT Libraries
  • Publication Date: 2022-09-26
  • Status: Active
  • Available in Paper: Price $19.95 | Buy Now


This catalog documents a 2022 exhibition of original editorial illustrations commissioned by the University of Tennessee Libraries to complement the Chimney Tops 2 Wildfires Oral History Project. The four illustrators showcased here have strong ties to East Tennessee. Paige Braddock, author of the Eisner-nominated comic strip Jane’s World and Chief Creative Officer at Charles M. Schulz Creative Associates, is an ’85 UT alumna; Charlie Daniel, beloved Knoxville News Sentinel editorial illustrator, has been a Knoxville resident since 1958; Marshall Ramsey, syndicated editorial illustrator and Pulitzer nominee, is a ’91 UT alumnus; and professional illustrator Danny Wilson has been a visible part of Knoxville’s graphic landscape since graduating from UT in 1984. The artists were given access to the project’s digital archive of oral interviews—to date, 139 have been recorded—and were asked to respond creatively to what they heard and read.

The result is Rising from the Ashes, a candid and deeply felt collection of illustrations encapsulating accounts of the merciless firestorm that enveloped Sevier County in November 2016. The flexible medium of the editorial illustration shows itself capable of extended narrative, disquieting detail, and poignant synthesis, as well as moments of beauty, hope, horror, and even humor as it ushers viewers into the recollections of wrestling and sorrow that animate the project’s still expanding archive. Bales writes, “Ultimately, the multiple fires destroyed or damaged 2,500 homes and buildings, killed 14 trapped people, injured another 200 or more, and burned over 17,000 acres of mostly woodlands that were a powder keg of dried leaves, all in a matter of three hours.” Years later, the ramifications of this event are still being felt in the community and region. Rising from the Ashes is a tribute to a people who suffered, lost, banded together, and rebuilt; and no less important, it is an expression of solidarity, recognizing how much remains to be done.