The Sonoma State University Library Gallery program enriches the intellectual, educational, and cultural life of the Sonoma State community through exhibits by student and alumnae artists, regional artists, traveling exhibitions, and selections from the University Library’s unique collections. Exhibits are intended to align with the SSU mission and curriculum and inspire discussion and debate beyond the gallery walls.
Like many, I too was greatly affected by the fire as I live in Napa. I work for an acute care hospital, and in the middle of the night, I received the first call of the fire.
I have painted these two paintings based on what I felt in my heart. Deep within the paints on these canvases lie my inner feelings, the great sadness of loss and reflecting on the immense power of nature. How deep in nature the duel of wind and the dry earth gives rise to fire. I envisioned a place far away in the forest, how a fire can start, and soon it affects everyone.
Acrylic and oil on canvas
20" x 16"
Dawn of Fury
Acrylic and oil on canvas
36" x 12"
Anne Belden is a Santa Rosa Junior College journalism faculty member and the adviser to the Oak Leaf News. During the fires, Anne and eight students traveled to active fires and the devastated areas to photograph and report for the greater SRJC community. Oak Leaf staff members won about three dozen state, regional and national awards for their fire coverage.
Rincon Valley firefighter on Wikiup - 10" x 12"
Sunset Framing - 14" x 11"
Coffey Chimneys - 14" x 11"
I have lived in Santa Rosa for 26 years and I have never experienced a traumatic event on this scale. I had just retired from a career in medicine in August 2017. I had moved into Santa Rosa from Bennett Ridge where I had lived for 22 years. I am now in an old historic district which did not burn. My old neighborhood burned to the ground and most of my friends and colleagues have lost their homes. I spent the two weeks during the fire bringing sandwiches and meals to the first responders and the doctors who were re-located to other clinics from the ones that burned. The tragedy in this county and the recounted tales of most people “barely getting out with their lives” haunt me. I know two people who died in this fire and the enormity of this loss in unimaginable. I ache for my friends, my community and those who were lost senselessly. To live through this Armageddon is an imprint on my soul that will never leave me. This painting flew out of me during the raining ashes of the Santa Rosa Fire.
Santa Rosa Fire Storm
Acrylic and packing materials on canvas
30" x 40"
While the October 2017 wildfires raged through Santa Rosa, California, local artist Mikayla Butchart designed the “Rose-ilience” image in response to the community outreach she was witnessing and as a nod to the tenacity and regrowth of Santa Rosa's namesake. Her fundraising campaign, which started as an enamel lapel pin and grew to include other merchandise, was shared over 2,000 times on Facebook, reported on by 8 different news outlets, and purchased by supporters in 42 states and 8 countries. While she was not expecting the viral popularity of the image, her goals were threefold: to give the collective support she was witnessing a tangible, shareable visual; to give the community a sense of collective identity; and to give those with smaller budgets an opportunity to contribute.
Through sales of Rose-ilience items, Mikayla donated $25,000 to fire relief efforts and partnered with other organizations that used the image to raise an additional $35,000+ and other nonmonetary support. In recognition for her work in this campaign, she was honored to receive the North Bay Business Journal’s Community Philanthropy Award and recognition as one of the North Bay’s 40 Under 40 professionals. She also collaborated with the Luther Burbank Rose Parade & Festival to adapt the Rose-ilience icon into the logo for the 2018 parade, honoring first responders.
Statement About Image:
I spent the first morning of the Tubbs Fire photographing the Fountain Grove neighborhood of Santa Rosa as a way to try to wrap my head around the size of this immense fire. It was surreal to see so many burning structures in what felt like a ghost town by sunrise; so few people and almost no fire trucks. The atmosphere of abandonment prompted me to feel introspective and made the fire personal. I thought about my mom and dad as I photographed the Hilton in full fiery blaze because it was their home base during their Thanksgiving visits to me and my family. Sometimes, I would join them for breakfast at the Hilton while they chatted up the waitresses. As the day wore on, I photographed an elderly couple quietly digging through the ashes of their scorched home in the afternoon. It was then that I realized many of the lost homes on that block belonged to my children’s classmates from nearby Hidden Valley Elementary School. I imagined the despair they must have felt. On a familiar stretch of Parker Hill Road, where I often drove to fetch my kids after school, I became nauseous to see it so disfigured by fire. I walked over splintered telephone poles resting like fallen trees for a closer look at a school building that was once a place of comfort for my children. It was now a blackened skeleton. I stood for several minutes in the smoky silence, then looked back up the road and took this photo.
Originally from Los Angeles, Erik Castro began his career as a documentary photographer in Seattle during the late 1990s focusing on issues concerning low-income residents and those struggling with drug and alcohol addictions. Castro has won multiple National Press Photographers Association Awards for his multimedia work and for his wildfire coverage in Lake County, California in 2016. He is a frequent contributor to The Press Democrat and the San Francisco Chronicle and his work has been exhibited in Seattle, Los Angeles, and at the Sonoma Valley Museum of Art.
Parker Hill Road
October 9, 2017
Color Digital Print
16” x 20” non-framed Epson paper print
I am a social documentary photographer recording social conditions and political events happening around me and forever altering my worldview. Photography became a way to explore and deepen my understanding of the world, allowing me to get in close with others and interact with those whose values I shared and whose hardships I empathized with.
Many people from all walks of life were devastated by the North Bay fires that occurred in October 2017. As a Petaluma resident not living in the fire’s path, I saw an outpouring of support from neighbors and community members on a scale I had never before witnessed. I began to photograph the remains of buildings and the fire’s aftermath about two weeks after the fires began and continued documenting the area for several more weeks.
The images presented here represent a sampling from a larger body of work. The experience of photographing such devastation so close to my seemingly “safe” community revealed in fact that no one is truly safe. As my thinking evolved over those weeks, I realized that we all live with the vulnerability that climate change and ignorance about its impact can have on us often in ways we may never have imagined.
Stornetta Creamery on Route 12
Framed: 20" x 24"
Mutual Aid is a composite of 192 photographs of fire truck door logos that were captured from a street corner over the course of four mornings as the fire-fighters came and went from the massive fire camp at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds in Santa Rosa. As a wildland firefighter who worked on a hand crew for the Stanislaus National Forest in the 1990s, I traveled across the West staying in fire camps that were hastily established in the ball fields of small towns to house and provide rest for weary first responders. “Mutual Aid” was created as a gesture of gratitude to the many firefighters who came here to Sonoma County in our time of need.
Mutual Aid (36”x48”) is printed directly on a glossy 1/8th” aluminum sheet that floats from the wall.
I am originally from the Philippines and immigrated to the United States in 1995. I am probably a news reporter if I am not an artist. I grew up seeing the hardship, calamity and social unrest of the people where I once lived so there was a time when I painted the poor and the way they live. I still draw and paint some but when disaster hits close to where I now live, I try to document it on paper or on canvas.
California Wildfire #1, 14” x 18”
California Wildfire #2, 14” x 18”
California Wildfire #3, 14” x 18”
2014 was established to be the warmest year ever recorded on earth (with each following year breaking records consecutively).
In my Beautiful Disasters series, I started visually recording major adverse natural events and the constant flux affecting our planet such as flood, drought, tornado, fire, lightning storm, volcano eruption, hurricane, sink hole, mud slide, earthquake etc....using the beauty of the event, the intimacy of the format and the allure of the grisaille painting process against the devastating impact of the climate occurrence.
The multiple installation (of up to 100 pieces) in a 5-10’ grid installation or shelving installation is creating an urgent visual reminder, in the current political circumstances of carelessness and irresponsibility, of one’s fragility and that of the planet.
I strive to open discussion by employing art, specifically made of found materials, to incorporate social engagement and public interaction. My commitment is to issues encompassing autochthonous people, global politics, and sustainability. The choice of materials, experimentation, and the process of creating is the hypothesis of using art to change the world. Solutions are found in the discussion of the possibilities made from informed decisions and a process of reflecting and communicating a range of ideas that reflect personal tastes and cultural identifications.
8" x 12”
Mixed media on linen (found fibers, paint)
8" x 10”
Mixed media on rusted cotton, found materials (metal, wool, net, silk and trim)
The day after the Tubb’s fire destroyed my home and neighborhood, I bought rudimentary art supplies and began drawing. Days later, I posted the 18-page comic strip I created, titled A Fire Story, online, where it went viral and was featured on news outlets nationwide. People who hadn’t been through the fire said my comic helped them understand the experience; people who had been through the fire said I got it right. An animated version produced by PBS station KQED won an Emmy® Award in June 2018.
These pages are from an expanded book-length version of A Fire Story that will be published in spring 2019, which I am in the process of writing and drawing now. A Fire Story will be my third published graphic novel, following the award-winning Mom’s Cancer and Whatever Happened to the World of Tomorrow?, both published by Abrams. In print, these pages will be full-color but wordless, as they are here. They illustrate my family’s stunned and somber reaction the day we were allowed into our devastated subdivision two weeks after the fire, surrounded by neighbors mourning their losses.
"A Fire Story" - Page 80
"A Fire Story" - Page 81
Ink on Bristol board
11" x 14" unframed, 13" x 16" framed
I have a passion for trees. I have been making paintings inspired by them since the mid 1980s. When driving around or hiking, I always keep my eye out for good subjects for painting. I have a highly developed sense of line work in my paintings, and so I am particularly attracted to the structure of the trees. Dead or burnt trees found in the forests frequently become inspiration for potent paintings. After the fires, for months I was reluctant to visit the sites of much anguish and loss in my community. When I finally ventured out on one of my favorite drives in Sonoma County from Mark West Springs Road in Santa Rosa to Calistoga, and then north on Highway 128 towards Healdsburg, I went looking for the trees that inspired my painting I call Highway 128 Near Calistoga. I was saddened to see that the trees were part of a burn area and are no longer there, yet I find solace that I had memorialized an inspiring landscape that will return someday.
Highway 128 Near Calistoga
Ink and Acrylic on Chiri paper
30” x 40”
Tawnya Lively is an alumna of the Sonoma State University Art Department. She makes mosaics for those who lost homes in the October 2017 fires by using the broken pieces of porcelain that were recovered from their properties. Inspired by the photographs that fire survivors took of their fine china and silverware in the ashes, she creates new family heirlooms to capture a piece of their story.
Mixed Media Mosaic
11" x 14"
10" x 20"
My work reflects stages of realism to abstraction, and in every stage, I have worked toward developing a unique look. My semi-abstract art expresses my liberation to break the rules of art and my evolution to this point has allowed me to develop a formula and process for creating it.
My paintings are very bold and reflect the confidence gained from the journey traveled to get to this stage. I feel a sense of freedom which has derived from a very slow breaking away from representational form. I have often thought of how in life, as we mature, we gradually break away from accepting being controlled and letting in the freedom that inspires creativity. My evolution in art seems to have paralleled my evolution in life. When beginning a painting, I have an initial idea in mind and then I release and let the painting evolve itself. Each painting calls to me for perfection, and I work until I am satisfied.
The two paintings I have selected for this exhibit are Crow’s Nest and Scrap Wood. Viewers have commented that these paintings remind them that there can be hope of renewed life after such devastation.
The act of recording scientific investigations as images has been intrinsically tied to natural history, and opens avenues for new understandings. My work, which is imagined hybridized species of plants, uses contemporary technology (digital image manipulation of historical illustrations) and the rudimentary tools of the early botanist (scalpel, tweezers, dye); these dimensional collages are new hybrid species of non-existent flora presented in the aesthetics of the early specimen case. The plants fade away to monochrome, questioning what is gained and lost as biodiversity comes under threat, but also offering a sense of optimism as it grows as a human institution. Herbaria have always been invested with human passions and biases, now natural collections are laden with a contemporary urgency as ecological literacy requires embodied, empathetic and ethical relationships with the natural systems that sustain life on this planet.
Mixed media (cut paper, pins, thread, acrylic, ink)
Framed Dimensions: 20 “x 20” x 1.75”
Mixed media (cut paper, pins, thread, ink)
Framed Dimensions: 20” x 20” x 1.75”
Fireworks: Why I painted the Fires
Artists can bring meaning and empathy to tragedy. I recently completed a series of narrative paintings inspired by the fire events that devastated parts of Sonoma and Napa in the Fall of 2017. Depicting these fires in no way mitigates the loss and despair people felt and continue to feel, but making art can be a way of healing.
I approached making these artworks like a visual journalist. I started by visiting and drawing on-site, researching and taking photos, then creating small studies for larger paintings. It’s startling to observe and experience places like Coffey Park and Fountaingrove, which were transformed into barren, existential landscapes. While disturbing, I found inspiration in the material remnants of broken concrete, the swirling masses of blackened branches, the twisted and rusted metal and small porcelain cups floating in the gray ash...a kind of radical beauty.
I was also inspired by the stories of survivors and the heroism of firefighters and other first responders. I couldn’t resist depicting their efforts in a few works. I may continue making art of the rebuilding and recovery efforts, which may include more metaphysical imagery relating to rebirth.
These pieces were created as part of an independent study I did with artist and educator Chester Arnold at the College of Marin.
Firemen's Call, 13”x13”
Portrait of a Firefighter, 13”x13”
Fire Desolation, 13”x13”
I am a working artist and educator, who lives in San Francisco and works at the ICB in Sausalito. My practice is painting and drawing. These three works on paper are my response to the horror and devastation of fire.
Smoke and Ashes, 20.5” x1 6.5”
Smoke and Ashes III, 20.5 x 16.5”
Fire and Ashes, 23” x 19”
Nuns Fire 2017
Taken throughout the duration of the fire, the submission images were created to document and record my personal experience in and around the City of Sonoma during the Nuns Fire of 2017. Each image to me represents a catharsis. The process of making photographs became a pivotal way to understand and contemplate something so ephemeral. Thus, the images are my attempt at describing the uncertainty of living with a vast and challenging experience. Working primarily at night, I used the light of the fire to interpret the landscape visually with exposures lasting from seconds to several minutes. With these long exposures it seems that the sublime nature of the fire seems to come alive with an intensity of both beauty and horror.
Partrick Fire from Lovall Valley Road, 5am October 9th 2017
16" x 24"
Nuns Fire, Norrbom Road, 9pm October 9th
20" x 24"
Nuns Fire burning east of the City of Sonoma, 4 am October 15th 2017
16" x 24"