The University of Arizona Museum of Art and Archive of Visual Arts

Fires of Change

November 19, 2015 – April 3, 2016

The worlds of art and fire science come together in Fires of Change. Curated by Flagstaff installation artist Shawn Skabelund, Fires of Change explores the increase in severity, size, and number of wildfires in the Southwest and their impact on the landscape through the eyes of artists. Through the art, visitors can get a sense of the true impact of the fires, from human to environmental.

Fires of Change is an NEA and Joint Fire Science Consortium funded exhibition originating at the Coconino Center for the Arts in Flagstaff. Eleven artists spent a week in 2014 in fire science boot camp with the Southwest Fire Science Consortium and the Landscape Conservation Initiative to learn about the impact of wildfire in Northern Arizona.  They then spent the year creating original works in reaction to their experiences.

Artists have chosen different mediums to express their visions, including materials brought in directly from fire sites. For example, Julie Comnick’s Ashes to Ashes is a wall installation that includes 14 drawings of wildfires. Each drawing was created with charcoal gathered from the fire site and is displayed below the drawing. Some artists, such as Bryan David Griffith, felt inspired to break out of their traditional medium and try something new. Rather than creating photographs, Griffith instead created abstract works using wood, beeswax, and carbon from burned petroleum.  Other works include film, ceramics, quilting, poetry, sculptural installation, and a monumental mixed media mural.


The eleven participating artists are: Kathleen Brennan of Taos, New Mexico, David Chorlton of Phoenix, Julie Comnick of Prescott, Bryan David Griffith of Flagstaff, Craig Goodworth of Newberg, OR,  Jennifer Gunlock of Los Angeles, CA, Saskia Jorda of Scottsdale, Helen Padilla of Flagstaff, Bonnie Peterson of Michigan, Katharina Roth of Sedona, and Steven Yazzie of Phoenix, AZ.

The exhibition was organized by the Flagstaff Arts Council. The Southwest Fire Science Consortium, the Landscape Conservation Initiative, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Joint Fire Science Program.


Participating artists Julie Comnick and Saskia Jorda along with UA Professors and fire and climate specialists Dr. Don Falk and Dr. Kevin Anchukaitis will present on their work during our February  19 Friday Night Art.

University Provost Dr. Andrew Comrie will moderate a science panel in conjunction with the exhibition on March 31. Participants include Dr. Margaret Evans, Dr. Ben McMahan, and Dr. Greg Barron-Gafford, and Dr. David Breshears.


Find great fire science resources for classrooms here.