Fleeing the Wild Fires

On October 9, 2017, early morning wildfires, propelled by 85 mph winds, swept across several counties in the North Bay. 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 and picked up a neighbor who was unable to evacuate on her own. The ensuing nine days were filled with horror at the ensuing 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 continued to make site art and photograph it. The photo records are printed from a high-quality desktop printer using archival paper and ink.

We are all victims of the effects of Climate Change with ensuing fires, hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes around the world. 2020 unleashed unprecedented wildfires in Australia. We must empower ourselves to mitigate these disastrous effects of global warming by reducing our carbon footprint and reliance on fossil fuels.

The Burn After returning safely home, I took a few days before venturing out to witness the nearby burn areas. These first photos of the fire devastation are in Kenwood, barely five miles from my home. I was trespassing on the property of strangers’ loss and grief so I treaded tentatively and respectfully.

Beach California beaches provide solace as well as an abundance of material for my site art. The endless canvas of sand is littered with dried roots, seaweed, polished branches, shells and bones. The top three visages were created at the dramatic Rancho Guadalupe Dunes Preserve near Santa Maria. Goat Rock is one of my favorite beaches where I made ”Singing Trio” and “Guardian”. 

Return Home These assemblages were created on a nearby knoll covered in California Oaks the day after we returned home from the evacuation. It is difficult to know if the 85 mph winds that precipitated the speed of the wildfires had any effect on this hill because it is in a continual state of natural decay and regeneration. Today, “Joy” finally succumbed to old age and has fallen.