Self-guided, site-specific, research and studio residency, Geyserville, California.
February 1-29, 2020
Traveling the 101 North from San Francisco to Healdsburg, there is no evidence of the recent wildfires that erupted at the Geysers 4 months ago. Leaving the main highway and traveling through Alexander Valley aiming our attention at Geysers Rd. and the origin point of the 2019 fire, the burn begins to show. Quickly we are surrounded by the blackened earth. Trees without foliage, black bark peeling to reveal new and tender skin beneath, and the bright greens of new growth. The smell of campfire mingles with something sweetly nauseating and my eyes are drawn to the thick blanket of chemical retardants that were dropped from planes to suffocate the flames.
Wildfires, Fire Retardants, and Wildlife: A review on the usage of California fire retardants and their One Health effects; Jordyn Ellorin, September 21, 2019 https://storymaps.arcgis.com/stories/c5fac96984114fe59ca1e36b2a585048
I did not expect to react to the blanket of chemical retardants, but that really was the most painful part. Fire when left alone to burn and burn out is damaging and it is regenerative. Adding the chem. retardants is permanent damage to the ecosystems… to all of the biodiversity in the area and beyond as the waterways, agriculture, and farm animals are poisoned and then through them, cross borders carrying the poison to far away places – infecting as they go. The so-called organic vineyards are allowed to continue to call their wine organic even though they have been covered in chemical retardants that are largely fertilizer produced by Monsanto Company. The soil will be infected for countless years. The abundance of green and new growth that is already visible was seeded by the chemical retardant. They are invasive species, pleasing to the eye and devastating to indigenous plants. Animals are sick, water is infected, fish have died by the thousands, and the endangered Salmon are now extinct in the surrounding areas (according to a fish and game agent I encountered on this journey); all because of the chemical fire retardants.
I struggle with the artwork/meaning/installation/viewer. The contrast between “raising awareness” and leaving it in mystery just torments me. I wonder, perhaps I am simply creating memorials. Maybe that is my work: my art process a memorial, the completed works a requiem, myself a funeral conductor.
I made a cyanotype painting on 7.5 feet of silk by wrapping it in the burnt fingers of a Manzanita grove. And 5 paper cyanotypes were created by rubbing them in the chemical retardant covering a natural stream and allowing them to gradually submerge in the water.