Vancouver-based artist Liz Toohey-Wiese, who completed a month-long artist residency at the Sointula Art Shed today, has wildfires on her mind.
Toohey-Wiese’s recent paintings mix the apocalyptic realities of record-breaking wildfires with dark humour in her series Wildfire Tourism. Before starting her residency in Sointula, she printed postcards that depict a blazing forest with the words “Wish You Were Here!”
Other watercolour paintings completed during the June residency show the phrases “Miss You Already!” and “Come Back Soon!” against a fiery background, creating a spooky effect that raises questions about who is being addressed by the words.
“What does it mean to wish someone into an inferno? That’s kind of bizarre,” she said, explaining that slogans like “Come Back Soon” aren’t necessarily directed towards people, but towards nature itself as the forests burn.
Painting fire presents some interesting challenges.
“You paint the fire last,” she said. “You leave the fire as this negative space because with watercolour, you have to preserve the brightness of the paper for anything you want to be very bright in your painting.”
The artist, a professor of fine art at Kwantlen Polytechnic University, says her work is meant as an intervention on the idea of the landscape she finds herself in and her relationship to place.
Following two consecutive years of record-breaking wildfires, her work involves a kind of grieving for the Earth as the climate rapidly changes.
“I think we’re confronted with numbers and facts and statistics very often in terms of climate change but they’re so abstract that it doesn’t mean anything,” she said.
“I think everyone in B.C. is kind of feeling this sense of loss or sense of grief,” she said. “Even if you live in a place where probably your house isn’t going to be threatened, it still feels like (wildfires are) changing the way we understand the weather and the summer or seasons.”
During her time at the Sointula Art Shed, she also completed a painting for the series Fire Season that depicts Zeballos, the tiny northern Vancouver Island logging village, as smoke pours from the high bluffs.
She was intrigued after locals in Sointula told her about wildfires that began in Zeballos last August, and she found the image compelling partly because of the human presence: a road, telephone wires and vehicles, people’s houses.
It’s also an interesting image because no fire is visible, only smoke.
The painting is based on a photo taken on August 14, 2018 as authorities struggled to keep up with wildfires across the province, including 44 reported on Vancouver Island following lightning storms.
(The Zeballos photo was published in an article by this reporter on August 15, 2018 about the Zeballos-area wildfires. The photographer requested anonymity at the time.)
|Smoke rises from a wildfire burning just outside of Zeballos in an August 14, 2018 photo. The photographer requested anonymity when the image was published by Black Press. Vancouver-based artist Liz Toohey-Wiese rendered the image in watercolour as part of a series of wildfire paintings.|
Pulling photos from news reports points towards an alienation from the actual events, Toohey-Wiese said. She hasn’t yet witnessed a wildfire.
The painting shows smoke rising above North Maquinna Avenue, which was closed for months due to the risk of falling debris from the torched cliffside.
The risk of landslides also resulted in an eight-month evacuation order lifted at the beginning of May for some 20 properties in the village of about 107 people. Five properties remained under the evacuation order until June 1.
The potential for another intense wildfire season looms amid very dry drought-like conditions throughout large sections of B.C., including all of Vancouver Island as of June 28, despite some rainfall.
Meanwhile, Toohey-Wiese says she’s sure to return to the Sointula, the community on Malcolm Island founded by Finnish utopian socialists northeast of Vancouver Island in 1901. She said it’s a place with a strong sense of community among the residents, many who work in resource industries like logging and fishing.
“I’ve just been here for a month but I’ve gotten really attached to the community here,” she said, adding that she hopes to visit Zeballos before returning home.
Rotary adds purple window displays to annual polio awareness campaign
Pumpkin auction still a go for Oct. 29
Vancouver Island Society for Adaptive Snowsports volunteer recruitment session planned
The Vancouver Island Society for Adaptive Snowsports is a non-profit charitable society… Continue reading
Campbell River Search and Rescue to be called in to search for Kelly McLoed
If you come across a groundsearch team tomorrow, listen to them.
VIDEO: Most federal party leaders hit B.C. for last day of divisive campaign
Canadians head to the polls Oct. 21
Alberta man pleads guilty, fined for hunting without a licence in North Island
It’s the responsibility of each hunter or angler to know whether they are considered a B.C. Resident.
B.C. mayor apologizes for removal of Queen’s portrait from council chambers
‘I prefer to be inclusive of the many aspects of our history’
Alcohol a possible factor in crash that killed 17-year-old girl near Williams Lake
A pickup truck left the road and rolled over on Highway 20 on the weekend
Rare bird spotted in Victoria draws enthusiasts from across the continent
It’s the first time a yellow-browed warbler has been reported on the mainland of North America
B.C. woman must pay $1,000 after unleashed dog bites another
Owner should never have left Bibi unattended, tribunal member wrote
Climate activist Greta Thunberg’s mural defaced in Edmonton
The eyes on the portrait were blacked out
App designed to help cut waste and grocery bills
Food security advocates say addressing poverty is ultimate key
Royal couple revealed struggles with media during ‘Harry & Meghan: An African Journey’ documentary
Special will include interviews with nine U.S. presidential candidates
Perennial VIJHl powerhouse is well into the 2019/2020 season
Rapporteur says some Indigenous people in Canada’s North sleep in shifts due to housing shortages
Local chefs, fresh food suppliers upping their game to provide even greater quality
Coach challenges team to show the discipline, skill and poise that produces long term excellence
Jewellery designer Talia Tanaka inspired by military medals