Cycle of Cities is a nine part series chronicling mythological themes of the rise and fall of cities through the “monomyth” or hero cycle.

The first part in the series, Cycle of Cities I: Collapse explores the death and destruction of cities by fire, water, and explosions.

The universal flood myths of Noah, Gilgamesh, and the Great Flood in the Quran were resurrected in the Christmas Tsunami of 2004 in Sumatra pink with the smog of burning rainforests, Hurricane Katrina overtaking New Orleans in August 2005, and the 2,600 year old legend of Atlantis which a U.S. led research team believes to have discovered in southern Spain using satellite imaging in 2011.

Since the time of Homo erectus, humans have controlled another earthly element: fire. Humans have used fire as a tool for destruction as in the fire set in Richmond, Virginia at the conclusion of the United States Civil War. Losing control of nature, fire can demolish a city at the accident of a human, like in the Great Fire of London in September 1666 set in the bakery of King Charles II’s baker on Pudding Lane. Fires are also sparked by humans pushing the limits of their dominance over the earth as in the oil pipeline explosion in Nairobi, Kenya on September 12, 2011.

Human-made for the purpose of destruction, explosives have superseded fire for the purpose of control and annihilation. From the bombing of Berlin with over 300 air raids from 1940-1945, the Atomic Bombing of Hiroshima in August 1945 at the end of World War II, and the bombing of Baghdad which in recent history was hit by over 150,000 bombs in 1991, over 1,000 targets hit in Shock and Awe in April 2003, and over 1,500 suicide bombings in Iraq since the Shock and Awe attack.

Cycle of Cities I: Collapse are cliché-verre views of cities emulating satellite imagery and battle maps. French for glass negative, cliché-verre is a photo-painting hybrid process. The work in this series begins as a hand painted image on glass or film in negative, and is then destroyed by fire, water, or explosion, then scanned, enlarged, and printed photographically.

The collective consciousness of the colonized West believes the Mayans prophesized that 2012 would bring death, destruction, and the end of the world. The Mayan community, as well as many scholars, believes this is a misinterpretation, and that the 1,300-year-old calendar indicates that the Winter Solstice later this year on December 21, 2012 will bring a renewal—the end of a cycle and the start of a new.

Not only do our stories and our heroes share universal recurring themes, but our earth and our cities also recreate these fundamental cycles. Beyond their power to destroy, water, fire, and explosions are symbols of cleansing and renewal. But first there is Collapse.