Firestorm: Ghost Map | Social Issues

Firestorm Resized
35″ high x 34″ wide
Photography by Douglas Sandberg

Fires devastated some 5 million acres of California in the first 10 months of 2020. Where I live was not in the fire zone. But dense smoke was a sad reminder of the constant danger, fear and loss that other Californians were suffering … and still are. The sky was like nothing I had ever seen, at first a dark, eerie orange. For days there was no sun-up, just all-day dusk. For weeks, sooty grey haze blotted out trees and buildings.

I’ve chosen to mark the firestorms by creating an abstract map of an imagined neighborhood in flames, seen from the air. I started with smoky-black cotton, and working improvisationally, sliced it apart and inset skinny of strips red-orange batik. Layered tulle hints at where houses once stood; frayed flame-colored patches show homes afire; textured spray paint provides a layer of ash, and French knots represent people forced to flee.

It’s a ghost map.


Adapting to Wildfire, May 20–October 13, 2023
• Ember Stomp Wildfire Festival, San Rafael CA, May 20, 2023
• Marin Civic Center Art Gallery, San Rafael CA, May 22–Oct. 13, 2023