In the summer of 2003 Kelowna suffered through one of the worst forest fires the region had ever seen. The Okanagan Mountain Park fire forced the evacuation of thousands of people and began a decade-long battle with wildfire in B.C.’s forests.
The summer of 2013 marks the 10 year anniversary of the devastating Okanagan Mountain Forest Fire and to observe the occasion the Lake Country Art Gallery is presenting an exhibit called From the Soot and Ashes.
The gallery’s sixth exhibit opens next week and runs from July 24 to to Aug. 30.
“As a threat we continually deal with, there’s a ubiquitous alertness to the danger of forest fires,” said Lake Country Art Gallery manager Petrina McNeill. “The power of fire, in this region in particular, is unmistakable.”
Curator Katie Brennan conceived of the exhibition over a year ago.
“From the Soot and Ashes is quite a contentious exhibit,” said Brennan. “While some may interpret the art to malign the natural disaster, others may see beauty or elements of hope and honour in it.”
Pointing to the relationship between natural disasters, religiosity and the suburban reclamation of burnt land, photographer Zev Tifenbach’s pictures document the state of the area affected by the 2003 fires four years after the fact.
Tifenbach photographed both homes rebuilt and the new suburban sprawl amongst the landscapes of charred logs and barren hillsides. This body of work leads to a lot of questions regarding the devastation and heartache of the fires as well as their clashing with the lucrative prospects of new subdivisions.
To fellow artist Suze Woolf, the remains of forest fires are simultaneously disturbing and strangely beautiful. Her highly realistic watercolours of burnt trees and bark, at times burnt with fire itself, suggest a battered and fragile ecosystem. These hyper-realistic tree-shaped paintings are littered about the gallery to evoke feelings of being amidst a charred forest.
For this exhibition the gallery has partnered with the documentary film Firestorm, which premiers Aug. 16 at Kelowna’s Paramount Theatre. The crew will have a presence at the exhibit’s July 24 Opening Reception.
Tifenbach and Woolf will speak to their bodies of work in an Artist Talk Saturday, July 27 at the Lake Country Art Gallery.
In his second lecture of the Art History’s Masters Meet Lake Country lecture series, Peter Green will present the lecture Forces of Nature: Landscapes, Natural Disasters and the Rebirth of Springtime in Art Aug. 17.
The exhibition will close Aug. 2013 and admission to the gallery is free.