Salt Lake City, UT
Salt Lake City, UT
Doug Tolman is an interdisciplinary artist and place-learner practicing in Great Salt Lake and Colorado River Watersheds. He believes inquiry and dialectic are our strongest tools for solving the West’s socio-ecological problems. He is a recent graduate of the University of Utah MFA program where he received the Frankenthaler Climate Art Award, a Global Change and Sustainability Center Fellowship, and a College of Fine Arts Research Excellence Fellowship. Residing in the space between sculpture, image, and community work, his practice is informed by place-based youth education, ecological science, and biomechanical travel. The materials and imagery he works with come from burn scars, floodplains, lakebeds, and lava flows, places where geologic and anthropogenic time are in constant dialogue. His collecting process is rooted in multi-generational rockhounding and wood carving, which he now employs to deepen and reflect on a complex relationship with the land he calls home. By facilitating generative spaces of inquiry, he attempts to deepen his community’s sense of place in pursuit of solutions to climate and land-use challenges.
Alec Bang is an artist, designer and musician living and working on unceded Ute, Paiute, Goshute and Western Shoshone land. He graduated from the University of Utah with a BFA in Sculpture Intermedia and has lived in Panama City, New York, Seattle and Salt Lake City. Alec recently decided to return home to Utah to be closer to family and this has allowed him a resurgence of place-based art, performance and community event production. Through art and performance he seeks to deepen connections with the Utah landscape, historically taken through broken treaties and treated as a landfill for the military/industrial complex. Alec works to find a bridge between heritage and history to understand the politics and environmental impacts of land use in the American West.
Doug Tolman & Alec Bang
Response and Responsibility
film and resulting barbed wire & dining set, 2019
coniferous log, splitting maul, 2023
Doug is a descendant of LDS Pioneers on land stolen from Ute, Goshute, Shoshone, and Paiute people, just downwind from Pacific Northwest firesheds. His ancestors migrated here fleeing persecution and poverty, but in their self-righteous belief that they were the “chosen people”, displaced and killed many people who belong to this land. He has an immense amount of guilt in being here, but simultaneously feels a deep connection to this place that has grown over seven generations of living close to the land. His childhood memories are rich with camping trips, wood carving, hiking, gardening and rockhounding with his family, experiences that have allowed his relationship with his home bioregion to grow deep. His practice lies within the nuances of a complicated multi-generational land relationship, attempting to learn how his presence can benefit the land, water, air, and community that sustain him.
Doug's sculptural work, Serotiny, features a refurbished family maul splitting through a conifer log that was cut down after a prescribed burn in the headwaters of Bear River, the largest tributary of my home watershed. While prescribed burns here in the high desert typically just manage ladder fuels, this burn sectioned off 913 acres in which all the conifers were incinerated. The stands of trembling aspen (Populus tremuloides, a species claiming world’s heaviest organism) left behind are now abundant with new growth. The maul head, manufactured in 1910 was inherited from his great-grandparents the next basin over. It sat as a handle-less antique for decades before it was refurbished and heat-treated much like neighboring forests. A Dictionary of Ecology defines serotiny as “the retention of seeds in pods or cones on the tree, often for many years, until a disaster, most commonly the heat of a fire, causes their release. After fire, the seeds fall on ground fertilized by ash in a site cleared of competitors” (Allaby, 2010). In Western industrial society, we are just learning to burn forests by prescription, something Indigenous cultures have been doing for millennia. This work asks what processes, such as serotiny, are being stunted by industrialization, are being left out of land care?
A tool of bifurcation and colonization, barbed wire has segmented land into pasture in the West for several centuries. The Canyon Mountains, located in Sevier River Watershed, are primarily public land, and leased for (over)grazing to several local ranchers. Like many areas of public land in the West, management agencies segment grazing allotments with barbed wire fencing that stretches for miles. A dry, high-desert biome, the Canyon Mountains are dotted with Utah Juniper (Juniperus osteosperma) trees, which seem to burst into flame every 20 years. In a particularly large wildfire, 107,000 acres, the whole mountain range was set aflame, with hundreds of miles of barbed-wire fencing along with it. Doug's & Alec's collaborative Response and Responsibility is a performative response to that wildfire, a response to the barbed wire that colonized the West, and a responsibility as settler-descendants to find our roles in unsettling. By sitting at the burning table, Alec acknowledges how his ancestry is deeply tied to colonization and settler ideology of the American West. This work tries to humanize the experience of being complicit in land theft and attempts to show the lack of dialogue with the indigenous populations who have been displaced.
more from their perspective
A temporary weather station sits near the top of Halfway Hill burn scar to warn downstream residents of flash flood danger.
Coastal wildfire smoke drifts into Great Salt Lake basin, mingling with dust particles from a dry lake bed. We are downwind and upstream, with an economy reliant on poor
land-use practices that cause ancestral forests to burn and ancient seas to evaporate.
A wooden dining set rests in the Clay Hill Burn Scar before being wrapped in barbed wire and incinerated.
A Ponderosa Pine, (Pinus ponderosa) scarred by prescription burn. The self-masting limbs and flaking bark are an adaptation that keeps these trees healthy through low-severity fires.