A Guest in a House Made of Fire and Water

Monday, September 7, 2020 was a hot, windy day. On the evening of September 7th, the Holiday Farm Fire ignited and the McKenzie watershed burst into flames. The next morning was one of the darkest mornings that I have ever experienced. The black was so dense that it seemed to absorb all light. The fire burned 173,393 acres including 431 residences. The town of Blue River near the HJ Andrews Forest Experimental Forest is now gone. 

I started creating artwork from the Andrews Forest in the McKenzie River watershed in 2012, setting the intention of developing a strong, personal relationship with the place through art making that would progress through my lifetime. I have worked closely with ecologists conducting field research at the Andrews Forest, I gathered reference material from the forest, and I even climbed an old-growth Douglas-fir tree many times as I researched light and color for artwork. This place has been my collaborator for the creation of many projects.

Now eight years into my experiment, this devastating fire has shown me that my idea worked. I have succeeding in developing a strong, personal connection to that place. It was heartbreaking to know what was happening and that the Andrews and the surrounding area, including the McKenzie Watershed were endangered. I dreaded that my artwork would become a eulogy rather than the long-term relationship that I intended it to be.

Three watersheds that include stands of ancient forest in the Andrews have burned. I have worked with 2 of these watersheds for previous projects, most notably Solstices & Equinoxes. Now I am drawn back to engage with them once again, this time in a more deep and prolonged way. It will be some time before anyone is permitted back into these watersheds. I have started this new project with a prelude. I will continue create preludes until I can enter the burned watersheds to engage with them directly. 

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