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- Mapping Fire Recovery in Oregon's Rogue Valley
In November 2022 the Confluence Lab partnered with Coalicion Fortaleza and Our Family Farms to lead a fire resiliency and map-making community workshop in Oregon’s Rogue Valley. The 2020 Almeda Fire impacted the Rogue Valley/Jackson County area profoundly, and local nonprofit organizers invited a Confluence team to the area for an afternoon of inter-organizational reflection, information sharing, and map making. The resulting maps of organizations and county resources will be completed and digitized by a Confluence graphic designer at the University of Idaho and given back to local Rogue Valley organizations to help with their future fire resiliency planning and messaging. Read more news from this event.
- Dilshani Sarathchandra and Kristin Haltinner featured on Vandal Theory Podcast, Episode 5.2
You can purchase their book published by University of Washington Press later this spring. Book Description: As wildfires rip across the western United States and sea levels rise along coastal cities from Louisiana to Alaska, some people nevertheless reject the mainstream scientific consensus on anthropogenic climate change. What leads people to doubt or outright denial? What leads skeptics to change their minds? Drawing from a rich collection of interviews and surveys with self-identified climate change skeptics (and some former ones), sociologists Kristin Haltinner and Dilshani Sarathchandra delve into the underlying dynamics of climate skepticism in the United States. In probing how ideas about science, religion, politics, and media affect perceptions of climate change, they find a far greater diversity of attitudes and beliefs than one might expect—including some pro-environmental views. With this nuanced understanding of climate change skepticism, Inside the World of Climate Change Skeptics offers much-needed insights on improving communication in ways that can move us toward a better future while advancing environmental policies with widespread political support.
- Teresa Cohn featured on Vandal Theory Podcast, Episode 3.3
Listen to the full episode.
Other Pages (38)
- Ground Truths Exhibition | Confluence Lab
Stories of Fire On line Exhibition Ser ies Part I: If a map is to be used for navigation, it functions only insofar as its relationship to the ground is true. Any map that represents the land from above inherently prioritizes certain features, distorting or omitting others. Scale, resolution and framing, along with what is labeled and what is left out, color the viewer’s relationship with a particular territory and the spatial representations of a map imply particular ways of knowing. Ground truthing is a cartographic practice which seeks to establish the veracity of any given map: how does an embedded experience differ from the abstracted perspective represented by the map? Ground Truths showcases creative works that experiment with this practice of knowing, engaging on-the-ground perspectives and firsthand experiences of wildfire’s presence (or threat of presence) in the Pacific Northwest. It catalogs the various ways artists are orienting themselves to their changing communities, and how they are thinking through the materials, textures, and living beings of their local landscapes to understand wildfire’s new place in their lives. Through these works, we experience fire as a wild force and a management tool, a lively presence and a haunting specter. We see it through the eyes of children and adults, and stretch into the worldviews of other species, too. As both agent and inspiration, wildfire rips across the landscape, but just as often it finds tinder in the artists’ imaginations. Here, then, we have assembled a map deep and twisted, one that honors the rich sensory, intellectual, and instinctual experiences of wildfire even as it reckons with wildfire’s undeniable material reality. This work is presented in collaboration by: “Seeking truth involves boots on the ground while looking for clues in the clouds.” David Paul Bayles And made possible by the generous support of: Megan Hatch almost there - losing ground archival pigment print, 10in x 27in, 2022 Jean Arnold Malden 3: Remnants acrylic on canvas, 20in x 22in, 2020 Meredith Ojala ALL I SEE IS RED oil on canvas 18in x 24in, 2018 Margo Geddes Standing Dead Silver Gelatin Print, 10in x 10in, 2022 Margo Geddes left: Heart Boulder right: Black Ground Silver Gelatin Prints, 10in x 10in, 2022 "To live in the Pacific Northwest these days is to live with the pervasiveness of fire in its many guises–with the smoke that signals fire, over there; with the flames that signal fire, right now; and with the charred landscapes that si gnal fire, back then. Fire is present here, even when it is not." Erin James read more on how the ubiquity of fire is explored in Ground Truths. Laura Ahola-Young Found Object 1, Cut, Burned ink and watercolor on board, 22in x 22in, 2023 Laura Ahola-Young Found Object 2, Cut, Burned ink and watercolor on board, 22in x 22in, 2023 Siri Stensberg From the Smoke, For the Birds video and audio. 2020 Julie Mortimer Crow Memories watercolor, 12in x 16in Asante Riverwind Waldo Wilderness and Mountain Bluebird acrylic on canvas, 8in x 10in Mary Vanek Smith Sky on Fire oil on canvas, 11in x 14in Justin Webb Skeletons of Soda Fire 2 silver gelatin print using Ilford glossy RC paper, 5in x 7in, 2021 Justin Webb Skeletons of Soda Fire 1 silver gelatin print using Ilford glossy RC paper, 5in x 7in, 2021 Kate Lund Are You Sure We are Going the Right Way? cattle marker and graphite on panel, 3ft x 4ft, 2016 David Paul Bayles & Frederick J. Swanson from Typologies: Charred Abstractions series Laura Ahola-Young Mapping Oxygen mixed-media on board, 18in x 18in, 2021 Kate Lund Downdraft installation view & detail, cattle marker & graphite on paper, 5ft x 23ft, 2016 Enid Smith Becker Witness acrylic on canvas, 30in x 48in, 2018 Fuller Initiative for Productive Landscapes (FIPL): Overlook Field School various projects from five week workshop, 2021 "Being in the thick of things –or gra ppl ing wi th fire from within, as opposed to witnessing it from afar– is essential to understanding not only what fire is tod ay, but what it means to the various commu nities that live with it in our region." Erin James read more about Ground Truths artists with "boots on the ground ." Maggie Keefe West of Cabin RX watercolor Alice Keefe collage Maggie Keefe Upper Hatter RX watercolor Laura Ahola-Young Two Pines Down (after the Fire) graphite, Ink and watercolor on paper, 20in x 16in, 2023 David Paul Bayles & & Frederick J. Swanson Typology Series: Canopy Triptych David Paul Bayles & & Frederick J. Swanson Typology Series: Charred Abstraction Triptych David Paul Bayles & & Frederick J. Swanson Chronosequence Series: Photopoint FFR 2 views from Finn Rock Bridge looking down the McKenzie River to prow of an island with jam of wood floated into place before fire, 2020-23 David Paul Bayles & & Frederick J. Swanson Chronosequence Series: Photopoint FFR 17 views looking up the McKenzie River valley in a mixed hardwood and conifer forest on a terrace high above the river, 2020-22 Oregon Episcopal School & Sophia Hatzikos Lift, Coil, Zip retired wildfire hoses from Redmond, OR fire cache, steel, zip ties, 2022 Lift, Coil, Zip in progress, spring 2022 Laura Ahola-Young Lichenization 2 and the Marking of Fire mixed-media on paper, 18in x 12in, 2023 "Our region is full of wounds, of ruined shells in the forest that testify to fires that are too hot and too big. But these “wounds” are also openings... " Erin James read more about openings offered through Ground Truths artists. Sasha Michelle White The Containment (FIRST AID KIT FOR THE FIRE-PRONE) 2020-2021. Tinctures of Arnica, Balsam Root, Tall Oregon Grape and Yarrow. Silk, wool and cotton dyed with Blackberry, Ceanothus, St Johns Wort, Tall Oregon Grape, and Yarrow. Charcoal Powder. Burn Salve. Protocol poems and photographs. Megan Hatch almost there - losing ground archival pigment print, 10in x 27in, 2022 Jean Arnold Malden 8: Shreds ink and gouache on paper, 11in x 14in, 2022 Kate Lund Microburst wire fencing, rip-stop nylon, flannel, deer fencing, tent poles, 9ft x 9ft x 4ft, 2016 Megan Hatch the way isn't clear - and yet here we are archival pigment print, 27in x 10in, 2022 Jean Arnold Malden 1: After the Inferno acrylic on canvas, 20in x 26in, 2020 Jean Arnold Malden 5: Phase Change gouache on paper, 12in x 14in, 2022 Jean Arnold Malden 2: Gutted acrylic on canvas, 20in x 26in, 2022 Liz Toohey-Wiese Billboard installed outside of Vernon, BC from August 2020 - March 2021 further considerations "Ubiquitous Fire" A key theme of the art that features in the Ground Truths collection is the ubiquity of fire. To live in the Pacific Northwest these days is to live with the pervasiveness of fire in its many guises–with the smoke that signals fire, over there; with the flames that signal fire, right now; and with the charred landscapes that signal fire, back then. Fire is present here, even when it is not. As Meredith Ojala notes in her response to the call for submissions, her oil on canvas Seeing Red is one painting in a set “made at the time when wildfires felt all-encompassing, when the world felt like it was on fire.” Her experience of driving through and living in fires in Southern Idaho, Eastern Oregon, and Washington in the summer of 2018 was so sweeping that it defined the daily rhythms of her life. She fell asleep looking out at wildfire from her windows and was woken up by the sounds of water-bombers. Even her dreams turned red. She notes that wildfires took over many of her paintings, even when she “had no plans to incorporate them.” The ubiquity of fire looms large in the wild abstractness of Ojala’s painting: we are unsure if we are looking at flames, or wildfire scars, or red dreams. The image is both beautiful and terrifying. It, like fire, appears multiplicitous–expansive and unbound to any one meaning or experience. Indeed, the very everywhereness of fire in our region is one way of conceptualizing the diversity of vantage points and materials with which the Ground Truths artists come at the subject. Margo Geddes’ work, too, grapples with the all-presence of wildfire. She notes that “fire season has become ubiquitous during the summer months in Montana,” and her photographs are one way of processing the “swiftly changing” landscape as it moves through fire’s various phases. Geddes’ prints illustrate fire’s mercurial nature as well as the rich range of emotions that fire can produce. The starkness of Standing Dead evokes familiar narratives of fire’s capacious destructiveness–its ability to rip through a landscape, leaving only wounds behind. But the patient observer will notice life among the ruins; what initially appears as a luscious shadow of a tree in the photograph’s bottom right corner encourages the eye to recalibrate and open itself up to the trees that live and thrive amongst the char. This emotional movement, from that of scars to that of regeneration, repeats in her photo of the Heart Boulder. While driving through the Bitterroot National Forest, Geddes spotted granitic boulders previously hidden amongst forest foliage but now exposed by fire’s wake. By capturing this moment of legibility, before the boulders are hidden again by fireweed, Geddes’ work illuminates yet another version of fire–one of reveal, regeneration, and renewal. Ojala’s and Geddes’ descriptions of their artistic process suggests that one way to grapple with the ubiquity of fire is to drive through it, literally. This act of experiencing fire on the move, or moving with fire across space and time, is even more apparent in Siri Stensberg’s From the Smoke, For the Birds . Filmed while driving through a dust and smoke storm in Eastern Washington in early fall, 2020, Stensberg’s piece is a visual and auditory echo of the “Fable of Tomorrow” that opens Rachel Carson’s seminal book Silent Spring . The video, which at first appears peaceful, quickly becomes filled with what is missing: no birds perch on the telephone lines, and the reason for their absence becomes clear as audio of a voicemail from Stensberg’s grandmother tells us about birds dying of smoke inhalation after fleeing a fire. Stensberg explains that the video and layered vocals create space for viewers to “mourn the wildlife and ecosystems lost in forest fires of the Pacific Northwest.” Her piece also asks us to linger on the various ways, both immediately perceptible and not, that fire lingers in our lives. Two additional pieces similarly turn to the non-human to illuminate fire’s ubiquity. Julie Mortimer’s Crow Memories brings to life the ghostly presence that defines Stensberg’s video, demanding that we shift our perspective from human to bird to experience wildfire and its effects. The misty air that dominates public imaginations of the Pacific Northwest is present on the edges of Mortimer’s watercolor. But this moisture gives way to dirty smoke in the painting’s center, such that the titular crow must turn its head to breathe. Stensberg’s video asks us to live in a world in which the birds have fled, or died. Mortimer’s work, on the other hand, tasks us with inhabiting a moment of captivity during which the crow attempts–and perhaps fails–to find the air to escape. The crow, a powerful cultural symbol of both death and the future, is here caught between the two in a landscape that similarly hovers between one version of itself and another. If Mortimer’s crow is trapped in the moment of, Asante Riverwind’s bluebird thrives in the time after. Mountain Bluebird and Waldo Wilderness is inspired by Riverwind’s experience of the 1996 Wheeler Point Fire in Eastern and Central Oregon, which he himself fought to save structures and forest for five brutal days. Like the crow, Riverwind struggled to breathe the smoke and see through the air that enveloped him. But as a longtime resident of the area trained as a USFS sawyer and firefighter, he remained to experience the aftermath of the fire. As he explains, the bluebird is a “resilient species well adapted to fire ecology,” and his particular bluebird, thriving brightly amongst the snags and debris, reminds us that “life is truly resilient, as are we all.” His painting visually declares that blue skies, like bluebirds, are also part of the fire cycles of our region. Finally, Mary Vanek Smith’s painting provides us with yet another perspective of fire and its ubiquity–this time a highly emotional one. Sky on Fire takes, as its subject matter, the presence of active fire. But rather than menace or destruction, Smith’s oil painting evokes beauty and tranquility. Its brilliant orange imagery and symmetry foster a sense of calm, and the foregrounded fence suggests a certain safety from the wildness of Ojala’s red dreams. Indeed, the painting could easily be one of a stunning Western sunrise; as Smith explains, the painting’s “beautiful natural display” stands in for “hundreds of thousands of acres of forest being burned.” The painting thus cleverly captures the cognitive, emotional, and affective dissonance of finding beauty in terror, and locating a new tomorrow in the fires of today. Ubiquitous Fire Meredith Ojala ALL I SEE IS RED Margo Geddes Standing Dead Boots GTruth "Boots on the Ground" Boots on the ground: in many ways this is a clichéd phrase that, with its evocation of military action, brings to mind images of war, soldiers, defense, and attack. As such, it fits a popular narrative of fire in the twenty-first-century Pacific Northwest as an adversary that we must defeat–an evil presence escaping out of the woods that demands active fighting. The complete story of fire in our region is, of course, much more complicated: modern wildfire is both too hot and too fast, seeded as it is by decades of the fuel loading that has resulted from federal- and state-supported suppression policies, and a necessary part of the lifecycle of many of the region’s ecosystems. Having boots on the ground in our contemporary firescape is thus also much more complicated than the military connotations of the phrase suggest. As many of the contributions to Ground Truths attest, being in the thick of things–or grappling with fire from within, as opposed to witnessing it from afar–is essential to understanding not only what fire is today, but what it means to the various communities that live with it in our region. Katie Lund’s contributions to Ground Truths began when she was in fire: while studying as an art student, Lund spent eight summers working as a wildland firefighter with the United States Forest Service (USFS). As she explains, she used firefighting to “fuel” her artistic practice, collecting “images, objects, and sensations over the course of each summer in the landscape.” That collection is on vivid display in Are You Sure We are Going the Right Way , Downdraft and Microburst –gestural renderings and sculptures that not only evoke her experiences of fire operations but carry within them remnants of the urgency and distress of being in the field. Microburst, for example, makes use of expired and cast-off tents and outdoor firefighting equipment to conjure the way that wind moves during a fire. Fencing, nylon, and tent poles hang together to situate the viewer within the actual wildfire’s wind–“short, sharp bursts of air strong enough to mow down 200 foot-tall trees in a matter of seconds.” The work of David Paul Bayles and Frederick J. Swanson similarly originates in situ. A western Oregon photographer and a retired Research Geologist with the USFS’s Pacific Northwest Research Station, respectively, Bayles and Swanson have made dozens of site visits over two and a half years to the landscape blackened by the 2020 Holiday Farm Fire to better understand wildfire and its effects on our region. As they eloquently explain, “seeking truth involves boots on the ground while looking for clues in the clouds,” as “that’s what trees do.” Bayles and Swanson use a variety of scientific and artistic methodologies to try on a tree’s perspective, working together to combine the photographer’s eye for form and color with the scientists’ focus on biological and physical processes. Their meditative treeness, or quiet on-the-groundness, is clear in the two styles of photographic work that feature in their Ground Truths contributions: Typologies (groups of images of single subjects) and Chronosequences (photographs that track change over time). “Truth may be lodged in the tread of our boots,” they note–a sentiment made visual in the rootedness with which we must observe the treetops in their Typologies: Canopy series and its observations of the forest’s resilience. The Keefe family shows us the intergenerational ramifications of fire field work. As their artist’s statement explains, the Keefes “study fire from a variety of disciplines and perspectives”: Rob as Director of the University of Idaho Experimental Forest (UIEF), Maggie as a watercolor painter, and their nine-year-old daughter Alice as a collager. Maggie’s paintings pull directly from Rob’s work in the UIEF, capturing the results of prescribed burns that prepare the site for regeneration and low-intensity fires that burn the understory to reduce grass and shrub fuels. The prescriptive titles of Upper Hatter Rx and West of Cabin Rx signal the tone and intent of these paintings; the Keefes explain that “prescribed fire is one of our most effective tools for reducing wildfire in the Pacific Northwest,” and these paintings “show the use of good fire in forests on the Palouse Range.” We see this “goodness easily in the latter painting, which depicts a fire manager walking calmly amongst a stand of healthy trees and signals the harmonious relationship of the prescribed burn and landscape via the fuzzy border between flame and grass. Alice also captures the “goodness” of prescribed burns in her collage–a bright and cheerful work that illustrates what this fire means “to her soul” as she remembers “seeing the flames for myself disappear as they burn down the pile.” Her collage, evoking the safe and the domestic in its doily base, offers us the same challenge as her mother’s paintings: what if we understood fire to be not “wild” and destructive, but peaceful and familiar? Finally, work from two field schools once again highlights the power of being boots on the ground. Members of the Overlook Field School , funded by the Fuller Initiative for Productive Landscapes, spent five weeks in the summer of 2021 visiting post-fire sites in the Willamette National Forest, most of which had burned within the past thirty years. Their focus was on “recovery,” which they explain as “analogous to resilience, restoration, and regeneration . . . a return to a previous state–perhaps a new normal.” The temporary landscape installations recorded in their Recovery booklet track not only these forest explorations but also the exceptional conditions of their field work, including the record heat wave of their first day of field school and the wildfires that dominated the final design stage. Their work is thus triply-site-specific, in that it studies wildfire in place, takes inspiration from the environment in which it is produced, and demands that exhibit visitors, too, inhabit this specific location. Similarly, the collaboration between Sophia Hatzikos and the students of the Oregon Episcopal School enrolled in the I.M.P.A.C.T. (innovate/make/act/collaborate/tinker) course activates situated public art to generate new knowledge about climate change and the wildland firefighting industry. Inspired by site visits to the Lake Oswego Gallery without Walls, particularly the nearby tall trees and the next door firehouse, the students repurposed fire hoses originally used in wildfire suppression during 2020 and 2021, now destined for the landfill, to create Lift, Coil, Zip . The three hose towers, which cleverly summon visual and formal connections to tree rings and silver birches, intertangle contemporary forests in the Pacific Northwest and the fire suppression efforts that have created and maintained them. They ask: how much does our experience of the region’s forests rely upon the wildfire-fighting industry and its policies of suppression? Where does hose end and tree begin? And what might the landscape look like in the absence of either? Oregon Episcopal School Lift, Coil, Zip in progress Bayles & Swanson Chronosequences Series: Photopoint FFR 2 wound openings "The Wound is an Opening" Enid Smith Becker Witness When I look at Enid Smith-Becker’s Witness , I initially see a scene of devastation. Columns of red interrupt an otherwise peaceful scene in the forest, burning upwards as they lay waste to the trees and understory. The stark vertical lines of flames literally chop the image up into before and after, or, rather, what once was/is and what will be. But, the longer that I look at this painting, the more diplopic, or double-sighted, it becomes. A second scene emerges, in which the columns of fire are not incinerating trees, but held within them. This interpretation foregrounds the idea of serotiny, a term associated with cone-bearing trees such as many species of pine, spruce, and sequoia that depend upon a blast of heat to trigger the release of their seeds. The longer that I look at Witness, the more clearly that I see two fires: one angry and devastating and another the first step in regeneration. I also see two sets of trees, respectively: one in the moment of collapse and another brimming with energy, potential, and life. The double-nature of Witness brings to life for me a line in the poem that accompanies Sasha Michelle White’s The Containment : “the wound is an opening.” The wound in the poem refers to delivery mechanisms in and of the body by which we can receive treatment and begin to heal. But it also strikes me as a powerful prescription for understanding the fire-prone and -affected landscapes of the twenty-first-century Pacific Northwest, or appreciating the two sets of trees that we see in Witness. Our region is full of wounds, of ruined shells in the forest that testify to fires that are too hot and too big. But these “wounds” are also openings of various kinds. Some of these openings are literal, in that many plants in our region need fire to open up to survive and thrive. Still other openings are figurative, in that they assert alternative burning practices and fire regimes that understand and use fire as a tool of life rather than one of only violence and annihilation. (Hence, also, the refrain that runs through White’s poem: “whose lands are you on?” ) Her work encourages us to think of not only the burn, but also the salve that follows. Several contributors to Ground Truths emphasize the violence of today’s wildfires and the wounds they cause. See, for example, Justin Webb’s photographs of the aftermath of the 2015 Soda Fire. The two trees that dominate Skeletons of Soda Fire 1 and 2 remain, six years after the event, as evidence of what we have lost. As Webb writes in his contributor’s note, his photographs are inspired by the experience of “seeing a landscape that I grew up exploring stripped of its already limited plant life.” The stark black and whiteness of Webb’s arboreal photos revise Ansel Adams’ iconic images of National Parks for the Pyrocene era. Webb swaps Adams’ wild and abundant sublime for the sublime of what is now absent and the wrecks that remain. See, too, the trees that similarly haunt the backgrounds of Jean Arnold’s paintings of what is left in Malden, Washington. In September 2020, the Babb Road Fire burned 15,000 acres and over two hundred buildings–including 67 homes–in a few hours. The five paintings in Arnold’s Malden series foreground this domestic devastation, documenting the exposed interiors of shattered houses with brutal clarity. Yet is the background that haunts me most in these images. Behind each set of ruins stands a set of trees that signals just how far the loss stretches. The trees in Malden 8: Shreds and Malden 5: Phase Change , in particular, remind me that it is not only our homes that are disappearing, but the homes (and lives) of countless other species with which we share this region. The ghost of what once also lingers in Liz Toohey-Wise’s striking Billboard , which anticipated the White Rock Lake Fire in 2022. Be quick, the billboard says to us with its tongue in its cheek; see this landscape while you can, as it won’t be here long. Other contributions to Ground Truths function at a different scale of time or engage alternative cultural practices to help us see wounds as the first step in healing and, often, a necessary phase in life. This perspective is perhaps loudest in the powders, salves, and tinctures of White’s The Containment –part of her larger project FIRST-AID KIT FOR THE FIRE-PRONE . Featuring medicines and dyes she made from fire-adapted plants of the southern Willamette Valley and The Nature Conservancy’s Sycan Marsh Preserve such as arnica, snowbrush ceanothus, and St John’s wort, White’s kit draws our attention how we might use plants that thrive with the recurring disturbance of fire to treat the illnesses and injuries that fire can cause. As she explains, her kit emphasizes “fire, tending, and healing,” particularly those central to Indigenous fire regimes that are not based solely on suppression, to present us a ground truth that “promotes a pro-active, cross-cultural attending to our fire-prone landscapes.” Justin Webb Skeletons of Soda Fire 2 Jean Arnold Malden 8: Shreds Megan Hatch almost there - losing ground The work of Megan Hatch is similarly interested in healing and renewal. A queer, multidisciplinary artist from Portland, Hatch began her project in the summer of 2020 and took inspiration from the interconnections between George Floyd’s murder, the COVID-19 pandemic, and what was, at the time, Oregon’s worst-ever wildfire season. Her photographs potently insist that we grapple with what is broken and how we might mend it, and each diptych tasks us with viewing, simultaneously, images of death and images of life. A thin golden line inspired by the Japanese art of kintsugi, by which broken pottery is mended with gold, yokes together each pair of images. Hatch explains that kintsugi vessels “hold our hurt and our hope,” and, similarly, her images tell us that “there is healing to be found in holding multiple truths in our awareness at the same time.” I see this hurt and hope strongly almost there – losing ground, which binds together an enticing forest path with stark snags. Which came first, the photographs ask: the life or the death? Can we truly have one without the other? And what binds them together? Several years ago, when I started to study literary representations of fire, I had a conversation with a fire ecologist friend about the evolution of fire regimes in my current home state of Idaho. She told me that prior to 1900, fires annually burned at least two million acres in the state. These fires had a different texture to the big, hot fires that we see today, she explained; the historical fires burned mostly lower elevation forests and rangelands, were smaller and more numerous, and largely were ignited by lightning or indigenous fire practices. I was surprised to learn that post-Big Burn federal suppression policies have produced a fire deficit–my friend told me that we actually need more fire in our region, just fire of a different kind. She was very clear on this issue: no fire is not the answer, and we must learn to see fire not as bad but part of the land’s personality. Laura Aloha-Young’s work and artistic process crisply captures the swirl of emotions that followed this conversation. Attempting to “provide evidence of the intricacies of regeneration, of life in the forest,” her pieces begin with photos that she takes of fire landscapes that “reveal the marks of fire itself: lichen, mycology, growth, decay.” I clearly see the tension between growth and decay in her work and the ways that it mixes media and species to grapple with the emotional complexity of fire. Much like Becker-Smith’s Witness , I initially see a scene of devastation when I look at Two Pines Down (after the fire) --the dark colors and jagged lines return me to the melancholy of Webb’s skeletons, and the hazy shapes that surround the lines heighten the ghostliness of the image. But when I look again, I see that these hazy shapes are alive. They are not ghosts of what we have lost, but fungal and vegetal assemblages in the process of emergence. The image is thus one of simultaneous wound and opening, past and future. Its depiction of post-fire blossoming–and the revelation of this meaning as late-maturing, like serotiny–reminds us that our relationship with fire must be complicated and double-sighted. It also promises that in our search of the material evidence that remains after the flames burn out, and the layers of meaning that we find there, we may access a new ground truth of acceptance, regrowth, and fortitude. further considerations contributed by Confluence Lab member Erin James, April 2023. Laura Ahola-Young Two Pines Down (after the Fire) Next
- projects | the confluence lab
LAB projects Fire Lines: A Sto ries of Fire project Stories of Fire: Pacifi c Northwest Cli mate Atlas Stories of Fire: Integrative STEM Learning through Participatory Narratives Storying Extinction: Responding to the Loss of North Idaho’s Mountain Caribou Our Changing Climate: Finding Common Ground through Climate Fiction Stories of Fire Online Exhibition Series Where there is Smoke... Wilderness Suite: Music, Video, & Rephotography Change in Frank Church Wilderness: Collaborative Rephotography Nature and Nuance of Climate Change Perceptions
- Interdisciplinary Research | Confluence Lab
Stories of Fire: Online Exhibition Series NOW ON VIEW project spotlight: Our lab, in conjunction with the University of Idaho's Prichard Art Gallery , is excited to host visual works for our online exhibition series, Stories of Fire . Part One, Ground Truths opened April 3rd, 2023. This online collection showcases creative works that experiment with this practice of knowing, engaging on-the-ground perspectives and firsthand experiences of wildfire’s presence (or threat of presence) in the Pacific Northwest. It catalogs the various ways artists are orienting themselves to their changing communities, and how they are thinking through the materials, textures, and living beings of their local landscapes to understand wildfire’s new place in their lives. As visitors to our site navigate through their work online, they also get a chance to learn more about these Stories of Fire artists: their inspirations, their intentions, and their interactions with their environments. read more submit to part II 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 Mapping Fire Recovery in Oregon's Rogue Valley Dilshani Sarathchandra and Kristin Haltinner featured on Vandal Theory Podcast, Episode 5.2 Teresa Cohn featured on Vandal Theory Podcast, Episode 3.3 read more