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In a Time of Change: Boreal Forest Stories

Boreal Forest Roulette (shown below), a collaboration of Ree Nancarrow and Charlotte Bird, focuses on fire: the conditions of wildland fires and the outcomes after a fire.

This collaboration was first shown at In a Time of Change: Boreal Forest Stories at Bear Gallery in Fairbanks, Alaska in 2022. The trans-disciplinary exhibit featured multiple artists and humanists working in a variety of media, following regular interactions with scientists, to produce original works that communicate narratives rooted in the boreal forest, including its ecology, its inhabitants, and their interactions.

Jill Johnstone, adjunct professor at UAF, was Charlotte & Ree's first scientist collaborator. Her presentation to the ITOC group, her articles about fire succession, and her classification key system game for identifying climax outcomes, gave them their focus on fire. Joan Foote, retired USFS botanist, spent many hours on walks sharing her wealth of knowledge about the boreal forest and succession following fire.

Ree Nancarrow’s three quilts depict some of the existing conditions in the boreal forest when fire strikes. Charlotte Bird’s four book structures track stories of how combinations of variable factors lead to different climax community outcomes.

Ree worked with Tamara Harms and Xanthe Walker in developing sections of the images for her quilts. She manipulated drawings, collages, and textures on an IPad to create images for fabric that became heavily stitched whole cloth quilts. From left to right, the stories are black spruce forest growing on cold soil underlain with permafrost, fire spreading through the boreal forest unchecked, and areas of boreal forest with exposed mineral soil, no permafrost, deciduous trees, and lightning-induced fires.

Charlotte used Jill Johnstone’s game to show variables that can change climax community development over time. Each of her four books illustrate early post fire situations based on fire severity, some of the variables acting on succession over shifting periods of years, and the climax community. They are: return to black spruce forest, mixed black spruce and deciduous forest, deciduous forest, and open grassland. The collaged panels include hand dyed and commercial fabrics, various commercial and exotic papers, birch bark, photo transfer, and glue stiffened canvas.

This work was first shown at Bear Gallery in Fairbanks from Sept 2–30, 2022, and will also be shown as part of the In a Time of Change: Boreal Forest Stories exhibit at the Pratt Museum & Park in Homer, Alaska from May 25 through September 23, 2023. The opening reception will be on Thursday, May 25 from 4-6pm.

Boreal Forest Roulette Triptych 37" h x 68" w

Panel 1: 35" h x 21" w | Panel 2: 37" h x 27" w | Panel 3: 35" h x 18.5" w

Charlotte Bird's Collage Panels

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