As Bay Area communities reflect on the days that forever changed their landscape, relationships and local economies, art institutions have stepped up to provide room for that contemplation, proving the necessity of such spaces during the best and worst of times.
Exhibitions in museums, libraries and galleries across Sonoma, Napa and San Francisco counties showcase the artwork of those both directly affected by the fires, and those who felt compelled to respond artistically. Now you too can mark the year since by frequenting a few of these thoughtful displays.
‘Reflections: After the Fire’
Aug. 20–Dec. 14, 2018
Sonoma State University
The University Library Gallery at Sonoma State exhibits work by 21 people—not just artists, but photographers, videographers, first responders and community members—documenting and responding to the firestorm. The impulses behind their artistic output are varied: some want to process their own feelings through art, others hope to offer a sense of optimism and inspiration in the face of loss. A reception on Oct. 17, from 4–5:30pm, marks the date the campus reopened in 2017, a nod to the school’s perseverance in the face of local disaster.
‘Young Suh: Wildfires’
Sept. 14–Nov. 17, 2018
San Francisco Arts Commission Galleries
Even though last year’s fires were devastating in their scale, fires have become an annual occurrence throughout California, a fact that allowed Bay Area photographer Young Suh to spend four years working on his series Wildfires. “Suh’s lush and languid images take the viewer from the comfortable position of being just out of the fire’s path, to standing within feet of the source,” reads the exhibition description. Playing off both our attraction to the beautiful drama of smoke, and our fear of nature’s destructive power, Suh’s images capture a state of “anxious desire.”
‘Harmonies: Kati Casida, Catherine Daley and Jann Nunn’
Sept. 13, 2018–Sept. 20, 2020
Luther Burbank Center Sculpture Garden
For any curator, placing a sculpture exhibition in the literal path of the 2017 fire raises a philosophical question: should the art reflect the region's tragedy? At the Luther Burbank Center, Harmonies isn't a fire-obsessed, hit-you-over-the-head exhibition, and it's better for it. While Nunn's XLIV—44 stars symbolizing the 44 lives lost in the fire—could be seen as somber, especially against the still-scarred nearby hills, Anita Wigglesworth tells KQED of Harmonies, "Once every piece was set, we walked around and all of us said, 'This is a really joyous exhibition.' You never know how everything comes together until it's there."