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For the last three years, I’ve been collecting burnt debris from wildfires and fires in the urban-interface zone in the western United States and using them to create “carbon paintings” that serve as markers of a changing climate and sustained forest mismanagement, existing in memoriam of the consequences of human habitation on the planet. I have collected from sites such as the Woolsey Fire in Malibu, the Camp Fire in Paradise, California, and the Troublesome Fire, Colorado among dozens of others throughout the mountain west, and each piece in the series corresponds to a specific fire. The reduced, fundamental material end result of these devastating events is the same as the cause—carbon—and this implicates each of us and our collective role as a part of, not apart from, the natural world. Western approaches of thinking, settling, managing and exploiting vast swaths of the earth is oppositional and has precipitated untenable circumstances. While naturally occurring fires are a vital part of ecosystems, we have induced a grave imbalance. last few fire seasons have made history, and mega blazes have leveled entire towns. Bearing witness to the burn scars myself post-fire is very impacting and allows me to document and understand from the ground.
These pure black expanses of soot aren’t really meant to be aesthetic or pictoral endeavors as much as to conceptually inhabit the lineage of landscape painting, representing spent/wrecked vistas and places— rather than pristine wilderness—by way of being stretched, landscape-oriented objects. The paradises depicted by the romantics were both harbingers of the consequences to follow and denials of the ensuing realities of colonization and settlement. The iconic landscapes of the west have been permanently parceled, altered and scarred which begs the question of whether our notions of pristine wilderness or paradise ever existed at all. Smelling of smoke and shedding ash, I think of these as landscape paintings of new American West, and overwhelming visualizations of a large-scale systems change.