red flag

Fires of Change is a collaborative project with the Southwest Fire Science Consortium, the Flagstaff Arts Council, and the Landscape Conservation Initiative (LCI) funded by the National Endowment for the Arts and Joint Fires Sciences Program. It aims to translate the complex social and ecological (new term: ecopyrosocioeconomological) issues surrounding wildfire into art. Our hope is that art will educate and invigorate people about the beauty and ecological necessity of wild fire. In advance of our September 5, 2015 exhibit opening and September 19, 2015 reception at Coconino Center for the Arts, we will be having monthly blog updates from the 11 talented artists who are creating work for the project. For more information, take a look at the Flagstaff Arts Council exhibit page.

red flag

by Helen Padilla (pictured at left. this post is cross-posted on her blog, Suspended in Nature)

Ponderosa Pine forest as seen from Snowbowl Road,  2014

Ponderosa Pine forest as seen from Snowbowl Road, 2014

Prior to working with the Fires of Change Exhibition, my knowledge about forest fire was simply naive.  For me, somebody else was starting all of these fires in the news; the Forest Service, people from Phoenix leaving campfires behind, kids smoking in the woods, or terrorists. I took no responsibility for these terrible events. It left me feeling apathetic. The Scientist and Artist workshop I attended in September of 2014 gave me an opportunity to reconsider those beliefs and ultimately, the responsibility to comment on them. It’s a daunting task considering the wealth of foresters and scientists residing within the four corners region who have devoted entire careers attempting to understand the process of forest management. How could I add to conversation?

Just to begin to understand any part of this issue, I needed to stop thinking of forest fires as a stand alone issue. Forest fires are a symptom of the much larger problems of climate change, economics, population and ultimately human nature. I needed to give myself the opportunity to contemplate what this meant to me.

Red flag is a term used in various contexts usually as an indicator or signal of warning. Using this symbol, I decided to create a work about my relationship to the community of Flagstaff, Arizona.  A place I had visited throughout my childhood, and now reside with my husband since 1998. Creating a personal and regionally responsible work was a central concern. I collected discarded community clothing, specifically in shades of red, from various agencies around Flagstaff. Clothing is a form of shelter we spend much of our lives maintaining, and replacing. As a way to labor these ideas, I disassembled and cut the clothing into squares, the red flags. I rolled them up to be seen as the individuals of the community, or the choices I’ve made in my life. Then banded them together with my fathers fix all of choice, tie wire. Each flag, (my choices), leads one after another indefinitely onward. I see this pattern in the forest,  too many trees per square acre, choking out  the view of the sky. My personal choices,  have created this red flag scenario of “not if, but when” will I lose what is dear, my forest playground, my home, my family, or my life? Today, I don’t have answers to these difficult questions. However I do believe in the power of thought.  I have ability to create new realities just by aligning my focus with what I hope to see in the future.

Artist Padilla's red flags in the making

Artist Padilla’s red flags in the making

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