When I visited the Art from the Ashes materials salvage, I didn't know what to expect. When I saw the burned track lighting fixtures all in a row I was struck by their 'soldiery' quality. They reminded me of a Russian Matrushka doll. I am fascinated by folk toys and dolls of all cultures, like the Native American kachina and the Japanese Kokeshi doll. The shape of these little fellas gave me the opportunity to combine charming elements of all those toys into one.
Brian 'Solar B' Chandler
It was an honor to be picked to be one of the artists for the Art From The Ashes, Santa Barbara Botanic Gardens exhibition. Working with other local artists and lovers of the gardens is a special treat for me because I love the gardens. As soon as I heard that I was going to be a part of it, my first reaction was, did any of the redwoods burn? My favorite part of the garden is the redwood grove and although I was sad to hear that one of the trees fell, I was happy to be able to make a piece from the majestic tree. When I'd first received the redwood stump, I knew I had my work cut out for me. I had to sand and level the piece in order to make a sundial. This process took 5 days of sanding by hand. During this time I was able to really feel the tree and understand its life and the patience and determination of a spirit that wants nothing more than to grow and give! I used two different magnifying lenses and the focused energy of the sun to burn the design into the piece. It was quite a challenge to slowly burn the cross section and the rings of the tree. Once again, a lesson in patience! The sundial is a horizontal sundial set for this specific latitude in the Santa Barbara Botanic Gardens and tells time with solstice and equinox indicator lines.
During the first hours of walking the site, it was the devastation and stillness that struck me. In the days, weeks & months that followed -- as we salvaged materials from sites in the Garden, The Gane House and lath houses...it was a walk through history, people, nature and sense of place. So much was lost, it seemed. There was a heaviness, a void for all that treasured this botanic wonderland. Even the lizards that would scurry across my path as I searched for materials...camouflage themselves in black.
It's part of human nature to look for symbols and signs as we navigate through life. Are we where we are to be...doing what is our calling? On a particular day in June my answer was clear. While digging through the century old Gane House debris, I uncovered print plates from the 1940's. Had I not been a devotee to the art of printmaking, it is certain that I would not have known the origin of these beautiful copper remnants. The discovery of these plates halted me. I felt it was no coincidence that I found them. In the months that followed, I carefully cleaned the ash, molten fragments and debris that had adhered itself the plates...might there be an image left to discover?
The five prints for this exhibition UnEarthed I-V represent their present persona. The images transferred wear the expression of 50 years of age and a blaze that nearly destroyed them. As you can see...there is still much to meet the eye. Similar to the lines on our faces or patterns on or fingertips...these imprints capture our history. To be continued...
Working on this project has been an amazing journey for me. It's my first time working with found materials and I've learned sooo much in the process. I was attracted to the metal pieces and the beautiful colors that surfaced in them in the aftermath of the fire. Reminding me once again of the beauty that's reveal from NEW BEGINNINGS. Everyone that I spoke to about this project(art from the ashes) has been in awe. I even got work donated by a metal shop!! That's the true spirit of ART from the ashes!!
I loved the energy of the people/artists involved with "ART from the ashes." This exhibit made me feel connected to my California community and the beautiful place we live. It also helped me see that, while I often feared the tragedy associated with wild fires, they could also be viewed as having a transformative power to help create a chance for renewal in the places and among the people affected by the fires. With that in mind, I tried to make something that people could incorporate into their lives in a simple way. I envisioned someone using these mugs, made of regenerated materials from the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, while they relaxed and rejuvenated, dreaming of creating an amazing day or week ahead.
I was in Southern California on business and decided to spend a few extra days with my friend Joy. In planning my visit, I got an e-mail from her asking if I would mind 'working' for a day at the Santa Barbara Botanic Gardens fire site for her organization; Art from the Ashes. I was game.
We loaded up the truck and some tools and my camera on a unusually gray California early June morning and headed to Santa Barbara. Armed with a good cup of coffee and a Moon Pie, we pulled up to the site. I was immediately overwhelmed.
You almost don't know where to start - most of the Gane house was standing in much the same manner that it was left once the fire had been deemed 'officially under control' about 2 weeks prior. I grabbed my camera and just started to shoot the destruction. Trying to methodically start in one area and move through the remains - initially from more of a documentation perspective.
Within minutes, my attention was drawn to the detail of it all and little discoveries. Trying to decipher what something was in it's previous state and the curious nature of how they found themselves arranged post flame. Small porcelain knobs with the screws still in tact. A kitchen sink with remnants of a coffee mug sitting amongst the ash. A tea diffuser and pie cutter close by. An obvious tool shed with upwards toward a dozen shovel heads, no handles, strewn in the rubble as if by magic, they were trying to clear the debris.
Perhaps the most fascinating for me: the library. The seemingly random way some books still had the fabric covering and were standing at attention. The ability to read charred pages with ink still legible. Piles of ash next to nearly pristine pages. I could have stayed in that one area for hours.
In the oddest of ways - looking through a lens - destruction turned into inspiration and ultimately beauty. I am not a professional photographer - I am just a woman with a camera that gets lucky every now and again with what I call 'beautiful mistakes.' The day I spent there was, for me, therapeutic and profound. And to that end, I am honored and humbled to be a part of something so amazing.
Devastation by fire is probably one of the most traumatic events one can experience. It can eliminate one sense of self within one brief moment. It is my hope that this and the other events sponsored by Art from the Ashes enables the healing process. Art from the Ashes allows us to push our creative boundaries and allows us to give of ourselves to a worthy cause. My fellow clay artists, Evan Vieser and Sally Anne Stahl introduced me to Joy Feuer and through this introduction, I became involved with making work from the materials discarded after the fire storm of the Jesusita fire in May 2009.
My piece is titled, Quick Silver Transiting the Nebula. Quick Silver was the old term used for the metal chemical element, Mercury until the element was named as such. Mercury is the Greek and Roman god of communication, mercantile and speed. There is a large sphere with pointed projectiles represent a star which is ready to collapse. The swirl forms represent particles shooting off of the star during the destruction process. A molten piece of aluminum represents a cloud formation. Through astronomy and mythological references, Quick Silver Transiting the Nebula depicts the cold isolation one experiences while witnessing or experiencing catastrophe.
I believe very strongly that we all should give back to our communities, especially in times of need. So when I heard about the work "Art from the Ashes" was doing, I wanted to get involved.
Walking through the devastation from the Jesusita fire at the Santa Barbara Botanical Gardens with (AFTA founder) Joy Feuer, I was struck by the visual impact of the charred remains. A treasured century-old house was reduced to charcoal and ash, three lone chimneys standing like tomb stones, a testament to what once had been. Vehicles became masses of molten metal, thousands of acres of trees and plants were rendered to dust.
In a matter of hours a vibrant living ecosystem had been nearly erased, yet as we walked through the remains, all around us were symbols of hope and healing, new life springing up out of the ash, charred roots sprouting new growth. Massive devastation and hope intertwined in the same dance.
It is the impact of that moment, the smell of ash, the vision of the gardens awash in destruction, and the hope of rebirth born out in struggling seedlings that I wish to convey in my work.
Normally I work with glass and steel, forging them with fire and heat to do my bidding. The gardens pulled me out of that comfort zone. I was captivated by the materials I found there, especially a group of century old timbers rendered into charcoal – so I adapted, choosing to take a backseat to the materials, letting them tell the story.
Working with these artifacts is like nothing I've done; it has been exhilarating and uplifting. The resulting works honor the memory of the Gane house while reaching towards the sky – embracing hope for the future.
When I moved to Santa Barbara in 1998, I fell in love with and was inspired by this gorgeous place, from the dual perspectives of artist and human being. I was fortunate to find my adorable bungalow, built in 1910, on historic Brinkerhoff Avenue, and I always envisioned that I would open up my own studio there and that a big part of my art would revolve around Santa Barbara itself. I did, and it does.
When I first heard about Art from the Ashes, I immediately knew that I wanted to be involved. What a great opportunity for healing! How amazing to give a damaged object new life within my art and include a positive message, as well! My piece "Dancing in the Rain" does all of that and more for me. It has gotten me back into painting again, and that has given me so much joy. It also has reminded me about something I sometimes lose sight of, that no matter what challenges you encounter in your life, a positive attitude will always get you to the other side with flying colors.
It wasn't until after I had contacted Joy Feuer, founder of Art from the Ashes, and was invited to meet with her up at the burned areas of the Santa Barbara Botanic Gardens that I realized the extent of the Jesusita fire's destruction. I began walking through the burned down historical Gane House where 3 of the tallest chimneys still left standing ominous and ghost-like were silhouetted against the bright blue sky looking down at me as though baring witness to all that was lost. It was incredibly moving, And as I started sifting through the piles – some things burned beyond recognition – I was so taken back by the fire's power and indiscriminant path of destruction that suddenly a wave of emotion and loss swept through my body like I had been through this before. Then the memories of 30 years ago came rushing back in my mind of having lost everything I owned in Malibu when a flood and mudslide swept through my home taking all our belongings out to sea and suddenly it seemed like yesterday sifting through the sand on the beach at low tide for weeks afterward dragging things up cleaning and salvaging what little I could.
That sense of loss and déja vu in the Gardens was like an omen, a sign, that I would create something meaningful to give back to the Gardens as a symbol of hope – and perhaps as a testament to the life that once was the Gane House and gardens. "Gane House Votive" was my contribution of paying homage to the life that was once there and incorporating a living sculpture in the form of a bamboo plant as a symbol of hope that out of this tragedy comes beauty and life again. Measuring 9.5x5.5x4.5 feet, "Gane House Votive" was created from burned materials recovered from the early 1900's Gane House, including the gardener's truck door, fused glass windshield pieces, rebar, wheel, "Mr. Heater" fixture, metal rain gutters, large copper plates and frame, metal ladder, garden tool handles and blade, recovered images from research books "Trees of Santa Barbara," metal scientific botanical identification name plates; metal "wet" electrical plates, metal garden drain grates, live bamboo plant; all mounted on a welded metal frame base with 4 wheel casters.
Art from the Ashes seemed a very logical step for me to take having experienced loss firsthand with the flood in Malibu. Although it would take several years later before my daily visits to the beach found a greater purpose in my environmental assemblages, it was through art and the creative process that I was reminded of what was really important: I'm alive, my family's alive, and these are just objects. By recovering what was left from the Jesusita fire I was once again reminded of something more important. Having lived in California over the past 30 years I have witnessed the fires increase in number, and intensity burning longer and destroying more homes, forests and wildlife. Ash falling from the Jesusita fire lingered unusually longer than previous fires – not days but weeks longer. It was during the simple and repetitive act of cleaning and sweeping up the ash from my studio as a daily ritual that it finally dawned on me that this falling ash was an omen – a sign of an ailing planet. I believe these fires and floods are warning signs of something larger … of a changing climate and global warming. We need to pay attention to these warning signs and begin to live our lives more sustainably. Each of us can begin by taking the lead and live by example by practicing the old adage, "Live simply so the rest of the world can simply live!" We can stop global warming and protect our forests and wildlife, our children and future generations.
My son Tennessee and I drove out to a warehouse near Raging Waters to choose materials that Joy Feuer had brought back for the artists from the burn site in Santa Barbara. With quiet reverence and respect and sadness we looked through the remains that had been charred and mangled by the force of the fire. We choose some things that inspired us and brought them back in a small box. On the weekends together we worked to construct our sculptures. With so much meaning already there in the materials, we let it guide us.
ART for the Ashes is a wonderful opportunity and vision to find beauty and renewal after the tragedy of a fire.
Tennessee Phillips Ward
is a 5th grader at the Hollywood Schoolhouse. He says he began making sculpture with rice when he was one. He is inspired by TV, Star Wars, and wildlife. His favorite medium is lego pieces.
"It was amazing choosing and working with materials from the burn site. It's awesome to be in a show that is a benefit from a fire." -Tennessee
I fully intended that for this year's Art from the Ashes auction I would create only one small manageable piece; that was until I got to the site where the materials were displayed and made available for the artists. Seeing those beautiful, charred, bent and disfigured elements made me weak in the knees and I once again filled up my car, apologizing to Joy if I was being a glutton.
Instead of creating one single piece I have created seven and I chosen seven reasons why:
This project offers a perfect confluence of things near and dear to me - there is:
1. the opportunity to help in a situation where many have felt helpless
2. the opportunity to be creative
3. using up that which appears to be useless
4. being part of a community of like-minded fellows
5. a chance to make a positive event out of sadness and loss
6. adding more great art to the world
7. a "win-win" - for the Gardens, the artists and the visitor
My repurposed metal jewelry all started because of a manufacturing warehouse that was destroyed in a fire. A non-profit organization called "Art from the Ashes" offered to help turn this tragedy into a blessing by taking the burnt ruins by asking me, and several Los Angeles based artists to create unique art pieces and raise money for charity. All of the artists asked to be involved were supplied with pieces of burnt glass, wood, siding, wire, leather and all sorts of odds and ends that were once part of this structure. "Art from the Ashes" hosts a charity exhibition showcasing the art that has been created from the reclaimed fire site materials. A portion of the proceeds from exhibitions are donated to a local or national charity chosen by the business or individuals impacted by the fire.
As a result of many devastating Southern California fires and my support of "Art from the Ashes", I have been using pieces of destroyed houses and structures normally headed to a landfill, to make beautiful cuffs, necklaces, earrings and rings. I often add gems to the metal, and the contrast between the charred metal and the beautiful gems is a unique visual contrast and no two pieces will look quite the same.
I hope you enjoy this environmentally friendly jewelry. There is a lot of heart and soul that has gone into this collection.
What does it mean when a majestic tree burns down? I wondered about that when I saw the black ashes that were left after the Jesusita fire swept through the Santa Barbara Botanic Gardens. Does the tree who lived here really disappear? Not for those that remember. Memories become a scrapbook that contains the reality of existence. And so my drawings are a memory of the great palm tree that once stood in the garden. I used the remaining ash as the charcoal base to make a picture of a memory.
"Postcards" piece has my images stitched in the shape of postcards inserted into plant marker frames.
"Rebirth" has my imagery pieced and wired into the openings of a table fan frame. My attachment to the Santa Barbara Gardens is that I had visited the week before the fire and wanted to somehow contribute to the "rebuilding process"
There is one moth/butterfly whose "only" home is the Ponderosa Pine. Ponderosa's grow over two hundred feet and can live over 1000 years - the older the pine the more it can withstand burning - they don't produce cones and seed until they are 45-60 years old.
I wanted to create a useful piece of art (shelf) so the old unneeded objects could be reborn. Thanks to Joy and ART From The ashes I got to have so much fun researching and learning more about the Gardens and it's wonderful history and so many things I didn't know about the pines.
The test tube and plant tag are artifacts found on the grounds of the Botanical Gardens.
Hoping one day a new "Plant Tag" machine will be pressing out the names of seedlings looking for a new home.
The idea of recuperating objects and reusing them in a different context is a focus of the pieces, as well as, the aesthetics of the chard and ruined wheel barrels juxtapose the living plants. The living plants are the catalyst between the remains of the fire and the rebirth of the new.
Working with burned, scarred and salvaged materials had an energy and beauty that lit a fire in me that enable me to stretch as an artist.
In addition, working and knowing Joy and being a part of her vision of "support, inspire, create, renew" are all things that I received through working with ART from the Ashes. And now I am so proud and glad that my work will be used to that end to help the Santa Barbara Botanical Gardens and further the cause of Joy's vision. It has been an honor.
Southern California makes for a great place to live - the weather is very tolerable... a draw back to that is we suffer from wildfires. These fires destroy people's lives every year and if there's something I can do, I like to help. ART From the Ashes just seemed like a perfect fit for me to be involved with. If you can take something from destruction and create something positive from it how can that be bad?
In working with ART from the ashes and utilizing the ash from fire sites to mix glaze that is used in these pieces, there is a connection back to the earth. That connection creates a sense of renewal in giving new life to organic matter that has been devastated by fire.