ARTIST STATEMENT: RETHINKING FIRE
In 2014, after the Slide Fire threatened my home and studio, I was invited to study wildfire with scientists from the Southwest Fire Science Consortium and join the project Fires of Change, sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts. After many days in the field visiting burned landscapes, I came to believe that the root cause of the catastrophic wildfires we are seeing today is a fundamental set of cultural perceptions—perceptions that must be challenged before we can agree on solutions, no matter how clear the scientific data.
In Western culture we traditionally view dualities—light and darkness, life and death, forest and fire—as opposing forces in an epic struggle of good vs. evil. We see ourselves as fighting nobly to preserve life and subdue death by taming nature to prevent unpredictable disasters like wildfire.
My work explores the idea that these forces aren’t opposed, but rather part of the same continuous cycle. One can’t exist without the other. Fire isn’t a natural disaster; it’s nature changing and evolving, seeking equilibrium. To exclude fire from a forest that has evolved with it for eons is akin to removing the bugs, grubs, and fungi that we find unpalatable but are necessary to recycle dead material. Yet keeping fire out of the forest is precisely what we’ve done for over 100 years. By trying to prevent death, we have inadvertently severed the cycle of life.
Now wildfire is coming back with a vengeance, like a river breeching a dam. And these unnaturally destructive fires are getting more frequent with climate change: today the average fire season is 78 days longer than in the 1970s. Annual burned acreage has doubled in the last 30 years and is predicted to double again by mid-century.
I investigate these concepts by using fire itself as my medium alongside other primal materials like wood and beeswax. I juxtapose soft organic lines and natural edges with geometric forms that convey our desire to control capricious natural processes—often with unintended consequences.
The forms of my work deliberately compel the viewer’s eye to complete them. I try to create a charged atmosphere where viewers can spark their own discoveries, sometimes different than my own. My goal as an artist is to provoke questions; finding solutions is work we must all forge together.