Street artist Philip Lumbang's "New Life" on found charred metal. Photos: R.Cruger
With the latest fires raging in Arizona and Brazil, I'm reminded of last year's notorious Station Fire, the largest to ever hit Los Angeles County, destroying more than 250-acres of Angeles National Forest in August 2009, confounding firefighters with the ferocity of its reach. Ash covered my yard, particulates filled the air and a reddish haze hovered. Massive flames in the hillside were viewable within walking distance. While I holed up with the air purifier, feeling the ill effects of the pollution, Joy Feuer got inspired, seeking renewal in the burned out landscape. When the smoldering stopped, she dug in.
Lisa G. Westheimer's "Harvest of Sorrows" wire basket of singed yucca leaves and scrap metal.
The result is "ART from the Ashes," an exhibition of artworks by more than 62 artists, created from the salvaged remains of the fires that devastated Deukmejian Wilderness Park, currently on exhibit at the Glendale Parks & Open Space Foundation through July 24. Feuer who organized the eco-installation states: "Our goal is to provide a cathartic avenue to victims of wildfire by transfiguring fire site debris into beautiful works of art. By using reclaimed materials as our medium, we hope to inspire and support the heart, mind and planet."
Ariyana Gibbon's "Earth Spirits," scorched salvaged stones form mini-monuments.
At the opening in a former storefront transformed into a gallery, dead branches stood like scorched sculptures, evoking the parkland, even reaching down from the ceiling. Walls are lined with dozens of artworks. The space features ceramics created from the ash, plein air paintings of before and after imagery, collages of detritus made of pipe, glass, bark, bottles, and bones. Photographs and multi-media works speak to the theme. From metal canvases to rock jewelry, a short film called "Coal Puppet" and an elegant floor lamp, new life came from the burned out damage.
Chris McCormick's "Water Pod4" scorched manzanita branch with ash glazed clay.
Happily, red dots on title cards indicated many of the works are sold, which will benefit the regeneration of 709 acres of the Deukmejian Wilderness, a natural chaparral at the foot of the San Gabriel Mountains that contained picnic grounds, an amphitheater, walking paths, and a Naturalist's headquarters. The restoration will regrade ravaged trails and parkland destroyed by the raging fires and control burns meant to protect the surrounding communities.
Steve Siegrist's "Phoenix" created from salvaged steel cable braid.
The Glendale Parks Foundation approached the nonprofit "ART from the Ashes" to mount the exhibit after seeing their previous shows for the Santa Barbara Botanic Gardens and Cisco Home Warehouse, a sustainable furniture store, both leveled by fires. The art is donated by a group of artists organized by Feuer. Art from the Ashes also plans to create a native plant nursery and plant Bigcone Spruce in the canyon. We can hope there won't be more fires but this environmental art highlights the problems and provides a remedy.
So far this year, there have been 28,278 wildfires in the US, according to the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho, burning 1.37 million acres. It takes decades to regrow these deforested lands. Better it comes from strategic fires and lightning strikes not human negligence like Arizona's abandoned campfire or the resulting desertification of climate change.