So much going on this month in Palm Springs—the season is in full swing! If you’re looking for something interesting to do as Palm Springs Modernism Week (February 13 – 23, 2020) is wrapping up, I’ve got a tip for you: check out Malibu-based artist Claudia Taylor’s show at Ace Hotel & Swim Club. The Ace welcomes Taylor to Palm Springs for month-long exhibition of her latest work, “Hearts of Trees Lost,” a site-specific outdoor showing of Woolsey Fire-inspired totems, and benefiting Climate Emergency Fund.
These stacked fire-charred wood burls are interspersed with ceramic rings with patterns and words creating bold statements, and will be installed at Ace (701 E Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs) from February 20 to March 21, 2020. A reception for the artist (free and open to the public) will be held Friday, February 20, from 5 – 8pm, at Ace.
Claudia Taylor on Hearts of Trees Lost Malibu:
The Woolsey fire of 2019 caught us all. Caught us and taught us. We knew as a community that we were due for a fire, but never imagined one of this magnitude and ferocity. And we never imagined that we would be left to fend it off with no support from the fire department. But they were caught off guard as well. And so it was. A disaster of epic proportions. The cause pointed to man-made errors stemming from our outdated power-grid.
In the days following the fire, we tried to make sense of it all. My husband and I were in a daze, walking our dogs on the beaches transformed to apocalyptic seascapes, the ocean so thick with ashen debris that the waves moved like a molten lava stew. The Santa Monica mountains unrecognizable, just a wash of blackness where there had once been verdant chaparral. and just sadness at so many homes lost, so many lives uprooted, nature and wildlife incinerated, and the acrid stench of devastation.
Then the rains came, and the tides brought in more charred remains. The mangled detritus of peoples’ homes, incinerated animal carcasses, and the dense blackened burls, the root balls of the manzanita trees that had burnt underground and were unearthed in the flooding and mudflows.
I began to collect the burls, not sure what I would do with them but vaguely certain they would become some sort of ‘art-project’. Some days I would find a slew of them and put them in a pile to come back with bags and friends to help me carry them back home. Other days, I would find just one, and walk with it, looking at its shapes, thinking of what it had once been, and what it had been through to transform to this hardened mass now in my hand. Each burl found holds a memory of what transpired here and in other fires along our coast.
The idea emerged that these would become totems, proud statements of remembrance of what had come to pass. And standing tall, they became beautiful, bold beacons to the resilience that we found as individuals and as a community.
I create the pieces with the help of my husband Rob. He commandos the actual drilling of the burls as they are very dense, difficult and tricky. I’m incredibly grateful for his support.
With welded steel bases, I assemble the burls onto them, finding the fit and ratio that makes the most sense. These are interspersed with ceramic rings, almost like crude handmade jewelry. The simple act of creating ceramic rings, giving them patterns and inscribing words, phrases and quotes that relate to the emotions I felt immediately after the fires is my way of marking my place in the history of the event, and indeed part of my own personal healing. Working with the most earthly element of clay, either by my hand or on the wheel grounds me, connects me and simply brings me serene pleasure.
The invitation to do an installation at Ace Hotel & Swim Club is an opportunity to create a family in this series, with some variations in assemblage that come from learning and changing as one does with the passage of time.
Now, a year after the fire, as I create more sculptures, the burls are harder to come by. My usual haunts have been exhausted and we must walk to farther beaches to find them. That process of collecting is a less a hunt than a meditation.
In just one year, the earth scarred by Woolsey is rebounding strongly in the hills again, bursting with beauty and wildlife returning. Charred oaks are resilient and refuse to give up. The coyotes are back, perhaps the most resilient and adaptable of creatures.
Clearly, the world is seeing the signs of climate change in the now, present moment. The increase in amount and strength of fires is one part of the alarming global weather shift. What is man’s role? What is our response? What is the artist’s role? Many questions, Many riddles.
Hearts of Trees is benefiting Climate Emergency Fund, as they support direct actions to combat and change policy in the fight to save our planet from global destruction. www.climateemergencyfund.org
Contact: ClaudiaJoTaylor.com / IG: @claudbomb
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