Art Responds: The Wine Country Fires is an art exhibition documenting the anniversary of the 2017 North Bay Wildfires. From the moment the firestorms erupted over a year ago, artists started creating work to respond to the powerful forces that suddenly transformed thousands of lives. Art Responds features eleven established artists directly influenced by the fires, including four artists who lost everything: homes, studios, artworks. Curator Rina Faletti reflects, “As a fire evacuee myself, I am witness to the creative ways North Bay residents living in the footprint of wildfire have reached out to help, share and rebuild. These artworks open doors onto that conversation.”
Art Responds artists include: Oscar Aguilar Olea, Julia Crane, Andrea Dale, Lowell Downey, Brian Fies, Jeff Frost, Linda Gass, Edmund Ian Grant, Norma I. Quintana, Kristi Rene and Laura Resen. Their multi media works will be on exhibition through December 15, 2018 in downtown Napa.
Napa native Julia Crane is the artist in residence at Chappellet Winery. She creates sculptural installations using materials such as ceramic, polymer clay, wire, hemp, and steel that reflect structures and patterns found in nature. At Art Responds, Crane’s works include a wall-size drawing using ash, charcoal and charred-earth on torn paper in addition to a floor sculpture made from scorched branches.
Expressionist painter, sculptor and printmaker from Guanajuato, Mexico, Oscar Aguilar Olea has lived and worked in Napa since 2003. With his studio in the path of the Atlas Fire, he evacuated as much art as possible, returning to paint sketches of landscapes overwhelmed by flames. These small paintings convey the urgency and uncertainty felt by the entire community. In addition, a wall-size figure painting, “Danae”, transforms the myth of golden rain into a wash of fire.
Artist Andrea Dale collected ash from the Atlas, Nuns and Tubbs Fires and suspended that ash in resin floating on pure white vertical panels. Referencing East Asian ink wash painting and the foundational teachings of a Japanese aesthetic called ‘ma’, these quiet works push people towards self-reflection and empathy.
Napa-based photographer Lowell Downey’s contribution features a series of aerial images of the Vaca and Mayacamas Mountains surrounding Napa Valley. Downey’s images tell a story about resilience: seeing the scars of the fire, the pattern in the forest and the signs of regrowth allows viewers to pause and take in what happened, from a place of deep respect for the earth.
“The earth has a resiliency. My goal is to examine forests and watersheds seasonally from an aerial perspective to document the way in which the landscape restores and rejuvenates itself,” Downey explained about his work.
Writer and cartoonist Brian Fies is known for his 2006 graphic novel about his mother’s battle with cancer. His home was one of thousands in the Santa Rosa area lost to the Tubbs Fire. The day after the fire, Fies instinctually created his webcomic, “A Fire Story,” an honest, unflinching depiction of his personal experiences, which will be published by Abrams ComicArts in March 2019.
Jeff Frost is a multimedia artist whose work combines installation, photography, sound design, and optical illusion painting into short films created from thousands of photographs. His first full-length art film, “California On Fire,” examines the increase in wildfire as a result of human actions. Frost trained as a firefighter to photograph roughly 65 California fires between 2014-18.
Native Californian Linda Gass creates art about land use and water issues in the American West. In her stitched works, she blends painting and textile techniques to create multi-layered aerial landscapes and maps showing the human marks that affect our water resources. Her all-size work titled “Severely Burned” represents the topography of the 2013 Rim Fire, the largest recorded wildfire in the Sierra.
Husband and wife Edmund Ian Grant and Kristi Rene spent years designing their art studio compound known as Villa Spankadellik and decades filling it with their paintings and sculptures. All of it was lost in the Atlas Fire. Barely escaping with their lives, they now work nonstop to fulfill exhibition deadlines and have created paintings and digital art using scenes and concepts from their fire experience.
Photographer Norma I. Quintana is well known for her tender black and white portraits of unsung heroes and performers “behind the scenes”. Quintana’s life and career took a dramatic turn when the Atlas Fire destroyed her home and studio. When faced with the loss of her cameras, prints and equipment, she picked up her iPhoneX and started documenting the remnants of the house she had filled with art, antiques, and family treasures. The resulting series, “Forage From Fire,” has been featured in a number of exhibitions marking the anniversary of the 2017 Northern California firestorms.
Laura Resen’s ongoing fine art practice is primarily photography. Throughout her art career, Resen has investigated the borderlands of abstraction and light in forms from nature and in architecture. After the Tubbs Fire raged through her community, she documented in photographs her natural and architectural surroundings in the wake of wildfire.
To promote a sense of community solidarity and recovery, Art Responds also offers A Fire Album, an online photo gallery which documents the creative response of anyone affected by the fires. During the first weeks of the Northern California firestorms, news and social media outlets were inundated with images of both devastation and determination. Many residents began to share their experiences and express hope, both lost and found, through their own personal photographs and artworks. Community members are invited to submit up to four images that express their experience of or reaction to the wildfires. All images will be posted at www.art-responds.com, and a juried selection will be printed and displayed in the exhibition. Works will be posted on a rolling basis and contributors will be notified if their work has been selected for printing. To submit: email up to four images to firstname.lastname@example.org. For images over 3MB, please use WeTransfer (FREE).
View the free exhibit through December 15, 2018 at 1252 First Street, around the corner from the Archer Hotel’s front door (visit art-responds.com for days and hours). The pop-up gallery venue is hosted by First Street Napa.