Responses to Wildfires
Wildfires, propelled by 85 mph winds, swept across several counties in the North Bay in the wee morning hours on October 9, 2017. When I awoke at 7AM to no electricity, I had no idea that there were fires spreading with alarming rapidity. Entire nearby communities in Santa Rosa were burning. The sky was clear out my front door but behind our house, I could see the ominous smoke cloud above Trione-Annadel State Park. The fire was heading toward our community of Oakmont Village. My husband Ken and I fled with a handful of belongings but grabbed our hard drives (where most of my art is stored) and cell phones. The ensuing nine days were filled with horror at the massive devastation with the reality that we might not have a home to return to.
Ousted from my studio, I began to make on-site art. These spontaneous response to the fires became a photo journal that I recorded with my iPhone. I discovered enormous freedom in embracing ephemeral images when my physical art and possessions could be ash. I looked for anthropomorphic images, sometimes altering them, sometimes gathering the nearby detritus to create something that emerges organically out of the environment.
Fortunately, we returned safely home where I cautiously approached a nearby community where many buildings had burned to the ground. I felt ghoulish photographing the misery of strangers but my need to preserve and put a human face on the melted matter was greater. For solace, I combed beaches where the endless canvas of sand is littered with dried roots, seaweed, polished branches, shells and bones. I continued creating spontaneous assemblages with stones, branches and dirt on nearby walks.