Artist Suze Woolf has been painting portraits of individual burned trees for over a decade. Thirty of those trees are printed on three layers of hanging fabric, forming the exhibit “State of the Forest.” The exhibit is a part of exhibition Environmental Impact II which is currently being shown at the Art Museum of Eastern Idaho.
To Woolf, charred trees are a uniquely interesting subject to paint.
“It’s kind of creepy and beautiful at the same time and I cannot help but see beauty in them at the same time as I’m very disturbed by them,” said Woolf. “And for me that combination makes for powerful work.”
One layer of fabric in each piece contains writing. Woolf collaborated with writer and former firefighter Lorena Williams to create a series of stories including poems, fiction and non-fiction pieces. One of Woolf’s favorites is a poem on the back of one of the trees. The poem tells the story of the rumored cause for the forest fire that burnt the tree; someone was burning a love letter.
Since the beginning, State of the Forest has carried a deeper message.
“For me it always was about anxiety about climate, and the role of climate in fires. The thing that has changed is that more people can relate to it,” she said.
When asked what she hopes viewers of the exhibition leave with, Woolf hopes that the exhibit will help viewers rethink fire.
“Many of the experts and people who are passionate about forests are changing their views about what is good fire and what is bad fire,” said Woolf. “I hope to spark conversation. I hope to spark thinking so to speak.”
She laughs at her word choice, “I guess that’s a bad pun isn’t it.”
State of the Forest is on display at the Art Museum of Eastern Idaho through April 2.