Martina Shenal is a Professor of Art in the Photography, Video & Imaging area at the University of Arizona, Tucson. She earned her MFA from Arizona State University and BFA from Ohio State University. She has received grants and fellowships including a Faculty Collaboration Grant for her project Space + Place from the UA Confluence Center for Creative Inquiry; WESTAF/NEA Regional Fellowship; Visual Art Fellowship from the Tennessee Arts Commission; Professional Development Grants from the Arizona Commission on the Arts; and a Contemporary Forum Material Grant from the Phoenix Art Museum. Her works examine human interactions within the landscape–highlighting the ways humans alter, mediate, and represent it. Since 2019, she has focused her work on framing the rapidly changing climate and the accelerating pace and impact of rising seas, hurricanes, super typhoons, and wildfires.
"Slash Piles 07" archival pigment print, 28.25in x 22.25in, 2022
"Slash Piles 06" archival pigment print, 28.25in x 22.25in, 2022
"Slash Piles" archival pigment print, 28.25in x 22.25in, 2022
Over the course of the past decade, I've been engaged in fieldwork in the Newberry National Volcanic Monument in central Oregon. In the fall of 2020, as a respite from the fires that had been burning for 7 weeks in the Santa Catalina mountains here in Tucson, I made my way to Oregon, crossing the border just as the numerous wildfires there began burning. The photographic work for the series 20/20 (notes on visibility) was produced over multiple weeks as smoke from fires burning in California, Oregon, and Washington accumulated in the high desert. The series traces a line from the central high desert westward to the coast, moving from the impacts of smoke to coastal fog.
The images included here were made in late November 2022, when I began photographing large slash piles that were staged for upcoming prescribed burns near La Pine, Oregon. I was struck by the sheer size and scale of the accumulated material–it felt like I was entering a series of dwellings or villages. My research led me to read about current efforts to create healthy forest ecosystems by reducing fuel loads during the winter season and reverse the decades-long fire suppression strategies that, in combination with drought-related climate warming effects, beetle infestations and the proliferation of non-native vegetation growth, have left the forests vulnerable to intense wildfires.
more from Martina's perspective
The slash piles are concentrations of leftover materials associated with ongoing forest management to help maintain and restore healthy ecosystems while reducing hazardous fuels loading. La Pine, Oregon.
Also from the series 20/20 (notes of visibility) Smith Rock State Park (collapsed crater), Terrebonne, Oregon. Images made in early September 2020 amid wildfires burning in the west, including CA, WA, MT, & OR
Markers in area of ongoing thinning and tree removal, La Pine, Oregon
Also from the series 20/20 (notes of visibility), Devil’s Chain (rhyodacite flow), Cascade Lakes Highway, Oregon
The series 20/20 (notes on visibility) bears witness to the effects of 2,027 raging wildfires that were burning in the west while doing fieldwork in the Newberry National Volcanic Monument in central Oregon. The title references the ability to see with perfect vision, but the chronology of images produced on this trip reflects just the opposite. The air quality in the high desert was deemed the most hazardous in the world at that time, as similar conditions were playing out across the West, fueled by a mega-drought, high temperatures, and strong winds.