2021 - Ongoing
In the fall of 2020, huge wildfires raged on the west coast of the U.S., our sky turned yellow-gray from smoke, it rained ash and left all living creatures unable to breathe. I mourned the loss of forest lands. My desire to create something out of the ruins led me to collect ash from the fires. I then realized I could create carbon prints, transforming the charred wood into recorded images of the forests themselves. After extensive research and experimentation, I am now making prints from the ash of many wildfires with visits to more fire sites in my plans. Invented in 1855, the carbon print is considered the most archival of all photographic printing processes with an estimated life of 10,000 years. Carbon does not fade. Instead, in my hands, the burned remains of the trees become photographs, in hopeful anticipation of the natural regeneration after fire. My process and its resulting prints, with their frilled edges and torn emulsion echo the way natural fire cycles can surmount devastation to provide nutrients to the soil, force a pinecone to disperse its seeds, or shape the landscape, in contrast to the extreme intensity and size of the fires that are now common. The photographs show us the beauty being lost to human negligence and the climate crisis.
Printed as lantern slides, the forest memory is held captive on sheets of glass accentuating both the fragility of life and our precarious position due to climate change. The images shift depending on whether you see them from the shiny side or the emulsion side of the glass. Sometimes, the photograph is only partially captured, like an unfurled piece of ash floating up from the fire. This is the Ghost Forest – Out of the Ashes. When installed, the Ghost Forest moves photography off the wall and into the middle of the room. The photographs on glass hang from the ceiling on pairs of cables that suggest the outline of the trees. The viewer is invited to wander through observing all stages in the life of a forest; small understory flowers, current and historical logging, dappled light in the trees as well as the aftereffects of fire. The images included here present a partial view of The Ghost Forest – Out of the Ashes as it hangs in my studio and some close-ups of individual forest memories.
My intention is to transform the devastation from the sick panic of needing to evacuate to one of beauty with awareness. In the U.S., there have been an average of 70,000 wildfires each year for the last 10 years, 90% of them caused by humans. As the earth gets hotter the fires rage, turning into uncontrollable conflagrations with devastating effects rather than part of a natural cycle. On completion the Ghost Forest will have 70 trees, each photo worth a1000 fires.