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lab stories (15)

  • Loads and Ladders

    Confluence Lab Member Sasha Michelle White's considerations on catalyzing the "Fire Humanities" were recently promoted through the Fire Adapted Communities Learning Network. "reckoning with landscape fire means reckoning with cultural fuels as well as ecological ones" Read more HERE!

  • Fuel Loading: "The Build Up, the Burn, and the Burn Out"

    Eric Onida’s Nearer My God to Thee depicts a marching band on fire, or perhaps a marching band emerging from fire; the bright reds of the band’s uniform, coupled with the yellows of their instruments, blend into the fire behind them, such that it’s difficult to tell where music becomes flame and flame becomes music. Onida explains that his paintings, produced with a unique recipe of egg tempera that blends viscous balsam, fossilized hard resins, egg yolk and water, depict “a society in the midst of its discontent, desperately trying to make sense of a destiny that often feels elusive, slipping beyond control and comprehension.” He also notes that paintings such as this one and Check, which similarly depicts an urban gas station emerging from (or perhaps about to be consumed by) threatening red flames that lurk in the background, draw conceptually from the fires depicted by the news media to be consuming the Pacific Northwest to represent “our social malaise as we grapple with the forces of unyielding natural and political environments.” These paintings certainly pose a stark question to me: what is the relationship between marching bands and wildfire? What about the city corner gas station–what role does it play in today’s firescape? Indeed, how, exactly, are ecological and social environments intertwined? Lisa Cristinzo’s Marked Trail poses a similar set of questions. As a Canadian myself, I easily recognize the symbols of Canuck patriotism in her work: the wheat and the geese that frame the painting, the pine cones and snowy, cloudy fields that root us in the North, and the cottage core kitsch of the colored mailboxes, flags, and place signs. These images combine to evoke a knee-jerk sense of national pride–for me, they drudge up an overly simplistic and idealistic idea of Canada that typically lives in a land of maple leaves and syrup. Yet the red brush strokes on the left side of the painting niggle me. These strokes could echo the most iconic of Canadian images: the red leaf, standing brightly against a white background. But they also disturbingly look aflame. Once again, I ask myself: what are the connections between these tokens of national pride–geese, snow, red foliage–and the fires that increasingly appear where we think they should not? And how do these artifacts of culture in and of themselves fuel these fires? Cristinzo’s artist’s statement gives us some answers to these questions. She notes that her current work, including Marked Trail and Birch Bark is like Snakeskin, came to her during a stay in a stone cabin. She began each morning collecting fuel for the wood stove, and “soon came to see the pieces of wood, newspaper, burnable objects, and ash as triangular compositions suitable for painting.” She quickly found herself delaying the fire each morning, pausing first to sketch her fuels before burning them. “Building a fire is a means of building a painting,” she states. Yet her process of accumulation-to-burn also speaks to a problem that she extends to the human species. “Our obsession with possession has caused a warming planet,” she writes, “leading to intense weather systems and catastrophic events. The planet, like many of us, is experiencing the build up, the burn, and the burn out.” This emphasis on the build up, the burn, and the burn out is fitting for an exhibition on Fuel Loading. As the introduction to the exhibition explains, fire managers use this titular term to account for amounts and types of vegetative fuels in a given area. In the Pacific Northwest, these fuels include dry grasses, shrubs, and dense stands of conifers. But Onida and Cristinzo’s work helps us take a much broader view of fuel, not just as materials that accumulate on a forest floor but also as social and cultural practices that facilitate a build up and subsequent burn. Work like Nearer My God to Thee and Marked Trail helps me realize how the everyday practices of my life, including attending the local football game, filling my car with gas, and taking a quick break at a cottage up north, are all part of the complicated network of values, attitudes, and behaviors that shape the world in which I live. Fuel loads, not just via ecological accumulation, but also via social tradition and routine. clockwise from top left: Martina Shenal, Eric Ondina, Lisa Cristinzo & Karin Bolender / Rural Alchemy Workshop (R.A.W.) Karin Bolender’s work with the Rural Alchemy Workshop also emphasizes the link between fire and our region’s cultural traditions. Her playful Rodeo Queen of the Pyrocene autograph card presses on, as she explains, “generic myths of the ‘Western Way of Life’ as they manifest in Pacific Northwest forestry, ranching, conservation, and other land-management practices, in both obvious and less visible ways.” The Rodeo Queen’s ghostly face and crown of flames task viewers with the question: How do iconic (and beloved) cultural practices of the North American West respond to an epoch increasingly determined by fire?" She also demands that we rethink the role of cultural ambassadors of this region right now. Bolender explains that the Rodeo Queen “thunders in and out of arena spotlights, waving a spectacular, distracting red flag amidst the more hidden dimensions of cultural, capital, and fossil flows and legacies that shape the land as we (don’t) know it and fuel its range of conflagrations.” What are the Rodeo Queen’s responsibilities to this region and its legacies, both positive and negative, overt and hidden? And what responsibilities do we, as viewers and potential fans, have in protecting the cultural and ecological heritages that she symbolizes before they–and she–burn out? Finally, Marina Shenal’s photographs give a forward-looking spin on the entanglement of ecological and social fuels. Her portraits of slash piles gathered in La Pine, Oregon, in late November 2022, are a much more literal take on fuel loading: they depict the vegetative fuels that have been cleared and piled as part of forest fuels reduction work. In Slash Piles, the scale and size of the accumulated material might appear as a warning. The brown slash piles frame and center the green, living trees as if to highlight the violence and destruction of the clearing that has taken place. What was once living, green, and standing tall is now dead, brown, and on the ground. Yet upon a closer look I also see two additional timelines in Shenal’s photos. One looks backwards to grapple with the accumulation of ecological fuels, due in no small part to the cultural suppression inherent in fire suppression policies. In this timeline, accumulation goes hand-in-hand with erasure: the build up of vegetation in the Pacific Northwest is intimately linked to the nullification of indigenous fire practices that center around the regular implementation of “cultural burns”--controlled fires used to renew the land and culturally important plants and animals. The other timeline looks forward. These slash piles have been staged in colder, wetter months for an upcoming prescribed burn to reduce fuel loads in the forest. Viewing them with a longer, future-facing timeline, I understand them not as symbols of a healthy forest that once was, but as the fuel of the more fire-resilient forest that will be. As Shenal explains, her photographs inspired her to learn more about “efforts to create healthy forest ecosystems” in the Pacific Northwest including “reducing fuel loads during the winter season” to “reverse the decades-long fire suppression strategies that . . . have left the forests vulnerable to intense wildfires.” The intimate, close view of Slash Piles 06 and Slash Piles 07 encourages me to appreciate the intricate beauty of these fuels and reconfigures my understanding of the dead materials as emblems of destruction to those of creation. They signify land management practices that are moving beyond suppression-at-all-costs to embrace the implementation of fire for both ecological and cultural purposes. They thus stand as potent images of a different kind of fuel loading which can support different kinds of fire, renewing social and ecological landscapes. The Online Exhibition Fuel Loading, presented by lab in conjunction with Prichard Art Gallery opened in September 2023. Contextualizing this exhibit, further considerations of this collection were contributed by Confluence Lab member Erin James. "The Build Up, the Burn, and the Burn Out" is part I of her response. ​

  • Afire at the Kenworthy

    followed by a discussion with the Confluence Lab “Like all of Petzold’s recent pictures, “Afire” draws you in confidently and prepares its knockout emotional punch with scrupulousness and a vivid sense of surprise.” — The Confluence Lab is pleased to sponsor the film Afire showing at the Kenworthy Performing Arts Center in Downtown Moscow, Idaho. A group of friends in a holiday home by the Baltic Sea where emotions run high as the parched forest around them catches fire. A riveting look at complicated relationships, the well-acted Afire finds Christian Petzold working in an arguably lighter but still notably ambitious vein. The Confluence Lab invites members of the Palouse community to a conversation about Afire after the screening on Sunday at 4 PM. As we face longer, more intense fire seasons in the West and elsewhere, communities like ours need to develop resilience and psychological preparedness. In this creative, interactive workshop, we’ll discuss Afire, share personal stories and feelings about fire, and strategize about creating a more sustainable and resilient future in our community.

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Other Pages (51)

  • Interdisciplinary Research | Confluence Lab

    Fire operations at a Prescribed Fire Training Exchange (TREX) outside Ashland, Oregon. photo cred it: Sasha Michelle White Artists-In-Fire Residency project spotlight: The Confluence Lab’s inaugural Artists-In-Fire (AIF) residency will support up to 10 artists and writers from the Pacific Northwest and adjacent regions as boots-on-the-ground participants in prescribed fire. Participants will train as wildland firefighters and attend an immersive prescribed-fire module as a firefighter. Returning home, artists and writers will be asked to reflect upon this experience through their creative practice and share those reflections with their communities. read more Our central premise is that the tools of the humanities and arts—especially those related to storytelling, representation, emotions, and communication—are important complements to scientific knowledge and can help develop novel approaches to environmental issues. We use the creativity generated through interdisciplinary and community-based approaches to partner with diverse communities on pragmatic projects that work toward more just, sustainable, and equitable futures, focusing especially on issues such as public land use, wildland fire and fire management, and the causes and effects of climate change. our primary goal who we are The Confluence Lab engages in creative interdisciplinary research projects that bring together scholars in the arts, humanities, and sciences, together with community members, to engage in environmental issues impacting rural communities. thanks to our research partners & affliates: College of Letters, Arts & Social Sciences College of Natural Resources College of Art & Architecture lab stories & news Loads and Ladders Fuel Loading: "The Build Up, the Burn, and the Burn Out" Afire at the Kenworthy read more

  • Stories of Fire Online Exhibiton Series Call for Art | the confluence lab

    The Confluence Lab, in conjunction with the University of Idaho's Prichard Art Gallery , is seeking creative, visual works for an online exhibition series, Stories of Fire . As part of The Confluence Lab’s Pacific Northwest Stories of Fire Atlas Project , these exhibitions will highlight the manifold ways artists and designers are marking, mapping, engaging and articulating personal and community experiences of wildfire in the region. Organized into three parts, GROUND TRUTHS , FUEL LOADING and SIGHTLINES , each exhibition is loosely framed by a particular disciplinary lens— cartography, fire management and urban planning—and the range of ways artists express and explore parallel concerns. call for artists & designers Fire is transformative. While wildfires may trigger fear and loss, they also foster new growth. Fire is essential to forest health, as trees with serotinous cones need the heat of fire to drop their mature seeds onto nutrient-rich mineral soils. In human communities, fire enables new Sightlines to emerge. New ways of seeing and feeling about fire become visible in its aftermath. Resilience, humility, relief, and compassion may sprout, as communities in post-fire landscapes sift through what was lost, what was changed, and what was gained. ​ This third and final part of the Stories of Fire online exhibition series seeks new work that engages Sightlines for fire prone landscapes by envisioning speculative futures that help us live better with more fire. The exhibition will showcase creative works that explore collective emotional and material resilience by (re)imagining human relationships with fire across the Pacific Northwest. ​ works by artists featured in the Stories of Fire Online Exhibition Part II: FUEL LOADING . from top left clockwise: 1. Kate Lund 2. aj miccio 3. Lisa Cristinzo 4. Suze Woolf 5. Anne Acker-Mathieu What seeds could be planted and what social and ecological trajectories fostered? What opportunities are “ripened” by fire? Where do you want to support new abundance? Where does your community want to hold open lines of sight? What does it mean to live with fire and what does justice look like in a fire-prone landscape? SIGHTLINES jurors: Stacy Isenbarger’s artworks provoke viewers through dynamic interplay between media, perceived tensions, and open space. Isenbarger simultaneously investigates ideas and materials, transforming the familiar into forms that challenge our assumptions of our environment and cultural barriers we build for ourselves. Her sculptures, installations, & mixed-media drawings have been shown throughout the United States and in India. Stacy Isenbarger is an Associate Professor of Art + Design at the University of Idaho. Currently she shares her time between Moscow, Idaho, USA and Cardiff, Wales. When she's not teaching or making—and sometimes when she is—she's usually dancing since the act continuously validates her joy of community acceptance and shaking up sp ace. 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 Universi ty of Idaho’s Con fluence Lab. ​ Jennifer Ladino is a professor of English and core faculty in Environmental Science, as well as a co-founder and co-director of The Confluence Lab. Her research is interdisciplinary, working at the intersections of affect theory, public memory studies, and the environmental humanities. Her two most recent books Memorials Matter: Emotion, Environment and Public Memory at American Historical Sites and Affective Ecocriticism: Emotion, Embodiment, Environment focus on emotions about environmental change in literature, culture, and historical sites in the U.S. West. She teaches courses in climate change fiction and film, rural American literature, and affect theory. She worked as a National Park Service ranger for thirteen summers, and she teaches regularly in the UI's Semester in the Wild Program. Megan Dav is is a graphic designer passionate about the roles of art and design as key players in social change. She seeks to use design as not only a medium for spreading awareness but as an active agent. In result, her prac tice has become increasingly oriented around audience engagement and in some cases, utilization. Davis has earned her bachelor’s degree in graphic design, worked professionally as a designer in Seattle for 5 years, has held a variety of design volunteer and intern positions ranging from nonprofits in Colorado to Kenya, and is now earning her MFA at The University of Idaho while also teaching in the Art + Design Program. ​ eligibility & terms: Artists & designers may be residents of the states of Idaho, Oregon, Washington, tribal sovereign nations of the region, or any artists responding to fires within the Pacific Northwest and adjacent regions. Som e of the artists selected for the Stories of Fire series may be invited to participate in the Stories of Fire Atlas , a brick-and-mortar exhibition (gallery construction pending), and other Confluence Lab opportunities. There is no submission fee or age expectation. Works submitted may be of any genre and must be original work. There are no size restrictions for work, but in line with an online exhibition, quality documentation is paramount. Interested participants are welcome to submit up to 5 works for consideration. Accepted works must have been created in the last 5 years. First, fill out the online Submissio n Form . Within it you will be asked to include: Short Artist or Collaborative Group Biography (Please no more than 250 words.) Responses to the following prompts: How does your submitted work relate to wildfire and to your conceptions of “Ground Truth”? Briefly discuss your work’s connection to the Pacific Northwest. Next, email the following to theconfluencelab@ Images files (we suggest keeping images files to 4MB each) or direct links to entries Title, Media, Dimensions, and Year Created for each work submitted Up to 5 works may be submitted for consideration, however an alternative angle or detail image i s welcomed with each submission. (10 submission images total) ​ important dates: Submission Deadline: December 1st Jury Notifications: December 15th Exhibition Opens: January 12th ​ submit Artists-in-Fire Residency for Artist & Writers Applications Due January 8th! The Confluence Lab’s inaugural “Artists-In-Fire” (AIF) Residency will support a group of artists and creative writers in the Pacific Northwest and adjacent regions as boots-on-the-ground participants in prescribed fire . ​ learn more > Submission Inquiries? Please contact ​ The Confluence Lab’s Pacific Northwest Stories of Fire Atlas Project preserves personal stories of encounters with fire in the region to document changes in human relationships with fire over time and help imagine healthy ways of living with fire in the future. In partnership with local communities, the Atlas gathers, tracks and maps stories and images of wildfire, especially those that foreground connections between fire, social and environmental justice, and traditionally underrepresented rural voices. It seeks to bridge history and speculative futures and link the origins and effects of the physical and social fires of the Pacific Northwest, by centering the question: “What lines has fire crossed in your community? What does that crossing undo, what does that crossing generate?” Funding for the Stories of Fire project made possible from generous grant from the Mellon Foundation’s “Just Futures ” Initiative for the Pacific Northwest Just Futures Institute for Racial and Climate Justice , University of Oregon. Next

  • AIF Residency Application | the confluence lab

    AIF Residency Application Form Artist Contact Information Name Full Address Email Website Instagram Short Biography (Please no more than 250 words.) Application Questions Attempts to respond to questions below in 500 words or less is encouraged and much appreciated. Why are you interested in this residency? How do you anticipate your experience with fire impacting your current creative work, future projects and professional goals? Working with fire can be both exhilarating and challenging. Tell us about your experience 1) working as part of a team and 2) working outdoors and/or engaging in strenuous physical outdoor activity. Tell us about any ecological, botanical, fire, outdoor knowledge or skills you have. Tell us about your relationship to the Pacific Northwest or adjacent regions. How do you hope to bring your experience of prescribed fire back to your community? (Please be as specific as possible.) Reference Information Please provide information for references that can speak to your readiness and compatibility for this opportunity. Reference #1 Relationship to Reference #1 Email Contact Phone Contact Reference #2 Relationship to Reference #2 Email Contact Phone Contact apply AIF is in collaboration with the Confluence Lab and the Prichard Art Gallery and made possible by the generous support of : return to AIF Residency information >

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