Young Suh, 'In the Beginning,' 2011. Courtesy of San Francisco Arts Commission
Young Suh, 'In the Beginning,' 2011. (Courtesy of San Francisco Arts Commission)

Exhibitions Across the Bay Area Remember the North Bay Fires

Exhibitions Across the Bay Area Remember the North Bay Fires

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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.

Louise Victor, 'Fire and Ashes,' 2018.
Louise Victor, 'Fire and Ashes,' 2018. (Courtesy of Sonoma State University)

‘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.”

Jan Nunn, 'Commune II.'
Jan Nunn, 'Commune II.' (Courtesy Luther Burbank Center)

‘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."


Luba Zygarewicz, 'RISORGERE,' 2018.
Luba Zygarewicz, 'RISORGERE,' 2018. (Courtesy of Sonoma Community Center)

‘From Fire, Love Rises: Stories Shared from the Artist Community’

Sept. 29, 2018–Jan. 6, 2019
Sonoma Valley Museum of Art

Many Sonoma and Napa county artists, this exhibition’s description states, “have relied on their artistic practice to recover from their losses and help restore the community around them.” This group exhibition stresses the artistic visions that help a community move forward. Among the long list of metalworkers, photographers, ceramicists, printmakers, new media artists, poets and writers included in this exhibition are familiar names like Norma I. Quintana and Brian Fies.

‘RE-COLLECT: Recalling Sonoma One Year Later’

Sept. 29–Oct. 14, 2018
Sonoma Community Center

In conjunction with the Sonoma Valley Museum of Art, RE-COLLECT presents works by three local artists: Mike Acker, Barbara White Perry and Luba Zygarewicz. Zygarewicz’s contribution to the show is an expansive sculptural arrangement of hundreds of salvaged objects—bits of twisted metal, hubcaps, scissors, things too distorted to identify—over a gradation of colored, melted glass.

Norma I. Quintana, from the series 'Forage from Fire,' 2017.
Norma I. Quintana, from the series 'Forage from Fire,' 2017. (Courtesy of the artist)

Norma I. Quintana, ‘Forage From Fire’

Oct. 4–20, 2018
SF Camerawork, San Francisco

Days after she lost her home, studio and countless silver gelatin prints to the Atlas Fire, Norma I. Quintana began photographing the remnants of her life with her iPhone: jewelry, cameras, Christmas ornaments, doll parts, kitchen tools and picture frames, all blackened and burnt. In her images, a black plastic glove issued to homeowners to protect their hands during fire clean-up becomes a stand-in for all the hands of all the people who lost their possessions to the fires. “Finding these objects, no longer in the state they were when they were mine, somehow makes the destruction less devastating,” she told KQED Arts last October, as she was still sifting through the ashes. “What is devastating, of course, is the loss of my home, that security, that place of memories. I don’t know yet if these pictures can soothe that, for me or anyone else. I hope so.”

Brian Fies, from 'A Fire Story,' 2017.
Brian Fies, from 'A Fire Story,' 2017. (Courtesy of the artist)

‘From the Fire: A Community Reflects and Rebuilds’

Oct. 6, 2018–Jan. 27, 2019
Museums of Sonoma County, Santa Rosa

The Museums of Sonoma County examines the fires from “personal, historical and environmental perspectives,” bringing together a temporary exhibition with two ongoing projects developed immediately after the fires. One of those projects is The Fire Wall, a community-submitted digital database of images, artworks and stories. The other is The Fire Collection, objects and artifacts—like a heat-warped street sign—contributed to the museum. Artworks from Teresa Camozzi, Brian Fies, Kimberlee Koym-Murteira, Gregory Roberts, Adam Shaw, Penny Wolin and Martín Zúñiga represent personal and emotional responses, while a timeline of the fires’ advancement, snippets of press coverage and examples of rebuilding efforts present a “facts-based” look at the events.

Linda Gass, 'Reclamation.'
Linda Gass, 'Reclamation.' (Courtesy of Art Responds)

‘Art Responds: The Wine Country Fires’

Oct. 10–Dec. 15, 2018
1252 First Street, Napa

This art exhibition and event series, curated by Rina Faletti, emphasizes the importance of creating spaces where communities affected by disaster can come together and see their experiences reflected through art. Featuring work from Oscar Aguilar Olea, Julia Crane, Andrea Dale, Lowell Downey, Brian Fies, Jeff Frost, Linda Gass, Edmund Ian Grant, Norma I. Quintana, Kristi Rene and Laura Resen, Art Responds also includes a night of film screenings (artistic and documentary) and a panel discussion on Oct. 21, 3–6pm. “When art leads this discussion,” Faletti says in her curatorial statement, “the aesthetic objects hold a creative power to steer conversation into new directions and unfamiliar territories.”