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featured artist

Sasha Michelle White

Moscow, ID
smw_burning coyote prairie.jpg

Sasha Michelle White is an interdisciplinary researcher whose work is informed by art, herbalism, field ecology and prescribed fire practice. Her creative investigations center the coloristic and medicinal properties of fire-adapted plants as a way of understanding human and other-than-human relationships with fire and fire-prone landscapes. Sasha studied printmaking and book arts at Bowdoin College, Maine College of Art and Cranbrook Academy of Art, has held fellowships at the Scuola Internazionale di Grafica in Venice, Italy and the Lloyd Library and Museum in Cincinnati, Ohio, and earned a master’s degree in Environmental Studies at the University of Oregon in 2021. She is a member of the Fuel Ladder art research group and a Mellon Foundation Predoctoral Fellow with the University of Idaho’s Confluence Lab. Although she still calls western Oregon home, she is enjoying creating new friendships with the flora and fauna of the Palouse.

featured artwork
Sasha White

"The Containment" Installation View

SMW Poem


YARROW (Achillea millefolium)

in early-summer, count flowers, count leaves.

a thousand flowers, a thousand leaves, a thousand wheres to grow.

wetland and woodland, roadside and ditch,

open pine forest, the lowest sage desert, the highest wet meadow,

the mulch-laden pathway.

white-green fades to ivory-yellow, fades to palest brown.

seek early.

seek fields, clusters, leaves with their thousand cuts.

black resin on your fingers, hopeful closing of your wounds. 

ask bees, ask flies.

(whose lands are you on?)

pass by where others picked before you.

pass by more flowers than you pick.

stay still.

cranes fly overhead.

ARNICA (Arnica amplexicaulis)

in mid-summer, seek circles of ash. 

circles where no grass grows, no polemonium, no cinquefoil, no penstemon.

in mid-summer, by the creek crossing.

ash as evidence. no grass, no cinquefoil.

seek brilliant yellow flowers. seek some. seek many.

follow the rough stems into ash, follow the pale runners.

follow scent, follow color, follow the way they grow.

test trauma, test the way they grasp the earth. capillaries breaking.

your hands will be black with char.

ask the sapsucker.

(whose lands are you on?)

ask ash and char. ask trauma. ask arnica, reaching in from the edge

and holding on.

BALSAM ROOT (Balsamorhiza sagitatta)

in late-summer, when the leaves are crisp and insect-eaten, scatter seeds and wait.

probing crevices of pine, closer than your arm will reach,

ask the brown creeper.

(startle to the gunshots in the night—whose lands are you on?)

dig a hole. dig carefully. dig with shovel or trowel or hands.

watch for side roots.

dig deeper than your arm will reach.

move gravels. pry pebbles.

ask the brown creeper.

dig deeper. carefully. gently.

ask patience.

smell resin, smell wounds. the old-man perfume surrounds you.

 you are sweating and thirsty. your head hurts. you are breathing smoke.

dig deeper.

move gravels. pry pebbles.

wrap the plant’s body in your shirt.

strap the plant’s body to your pack. smell resin, smell wounds.

the old-man perfume surrounds you.

hike the root out.

keep it cool. wet the linen. keep it cool.

drive the long hours home.

use pruners, loppers, handsaw. crack the outer bark. chop the inner pith.

cut the pieces as small as you are able.

fill a jar. pour alcohol. stained, grateful. the old-man perfume surrounds you.

 steep three weeks in darkness.

scatter seeds and wait.

TALL OREGON GRAPE (Berberis aquifolium)

in autumn, in winter, walk where the woodpeckers

cache their acorns in the tall poles of powerlines.

here in oak woodland, in thickets of poison oak,

ask how to ask the black bear.

(roots torn from soil, tops scattered—who decides whose lands you are on?)


choose somewhere else.

harvest from gardens in town, from stems reaching for light

and in need of pruning.

towhee, scrub jay, hummingbird. the ever-present weaver finch.

ask who. ask land.

cut, the stems show yellow.


the wound is an opening.

open the mouth, open the skin.

enter bodies, exit bodies. through the Other’s hold.

through gut, through kidneys, through lungs.

White_Sasha_The Containment View 2

"The Containment" installation view

White_Sasha_Burn Salve

Burn Salve from "The Containment"

White_Sasha_Charcoal Powder

Charcoal Powder from "The Containment"


Tinctures from "The Containment"

responding to Ground Truths

Within the fire-prone landscapes of the Pacific Northwest, many plants that thrive with the recurring disturbance of fire are also useful for the injuries and illnesses acquired in proximity to fire. Many native and non-native species can rebound quickly in the post-fire landscape, including arnica who invades heavily burned soils, snowbrush ceanothus who collaborates with soil bacteria to fix nitrogen and return fertility to the land and that lover of disturbance, St Johns wort.

My project FIRST-AID KIT FOR THE FIRE-PRONE engages these and other fire-adapted plants from Oregon landscapes as medicines and dyes. The Containment, the most “kit-like” work of this project, utilizes plants gathered from areas in the southern Willamette Valley and The Nature Conservancy’s Sycan Marsh Preserve and builds from historical, cosmopolitan interchangeabilities of aesthetic and medicinal substances. The work centers an “image” of the landscape that is less about visual apprehension and more about material, sensual and processual relationships, and how those relationships eschew rigid boundaries and property lines. By emphasizing the relationships between fire, tending and healing, The Containment seeks a “ground truth” that both allies with Indigenous fire sovereignty and promotes a pro-active, cross-cultural attending to our fire-prone landscapes.

more from Sasha's perspective

The seed of snowbrush ceanothus (Ceanothus velutinus) requires fire scarification to germinate. Without fire or other disturbance, its seeds can persist in the soil for centuries. Where prescribed fire burned a hillside on TNC’s Sycan Marsh preserve, though no mature shrubs had been observed, ceanothus germinated in great numbers. The shrub has a symbiotic relationship with Frankia bacteria to fix nitrogen, improving post-fire soil fertility. The stem and root bark of ceanothus, also known as red root, can be used as medicine and as a dye; using various soils in which the shrub was growing as mordants changed the color acheived.

Fuel Ladder is an interdisciplinary research collective of artists, designers, and thinkers in and around Eugene, Oregon, who are exploring climate crisis through the social and ecological complexities of wildfire. 

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