On Fire is part of an ongoing series of works by artist Bently Spang (American, b. 1960) that tells the story of the 2012 Ash Creek wildfire, a fire that devastated his family’s ranch located on their ancestral homeland of the Northern Cheyenne reservation in Montana. In this work, Spang seeks out the story of the fire from the perspective of the trees he grew up with on his family’s land. He facilitates their voice through a series of video-documented, performative rubbings on paper of the now charred trees. The resulting installation juxtaposes performance video alongside the rubbings, recalling the dialogue Spang’s people have always had with the natural world as a function of maintaining a crucial balance between human and nature. And, the artist posits, with the challenges faced today with climate change, this conversation is more important than ever.
Funded in part by the UW American Indian Studies Program, the Wyoming Excellence in Higher Education Endowment, and UW Art Museum Gala Funds
Left: Artist Bently Spang (American, b. 1960) holds a rubbing and stands next to the charred tree from which it was created, courtesy of the artist
Right: Bently Spang (American, b. 1960), On Fire: Photo Study #4, 2013, pigment ink digital image, 13 x 19 inches, courtesy of the artist