Norma I. Quintana: Forage From Fire
I’ve often thought about the transience of objects, where after the passing of an individual, the objects left behind find new incarnations and new homes. In photographer Norma I. Quintana’s experience, the objects she held dear are not being passed on to a new home, but do have new incarnations as they have had their own small deaths in a massive California fire. With this poignant and visually powerful project, Forage From Fire, Norma considers the devastating destruction of all she owned by documenting what was left behind, finding a new beauty of objects that hold memory, history, and loss.
Forage From Fire was recently exhibited at the San Francisco Camerawork, and is currently on display at First Street Napa, in Napa, CA, until Dec. 15 as part of Art Responds: The Wine Country Fires. Her work will also be part of the Sonoma Valley Museum exhibition, From Fire, Love Rises on display until January 6, 2019.
Testimonial for Forage From Fire
“On the night of October 8th, 2017, at 11:00pm, I received a call from a friend who told us that she could see a wildfire spreading on the hills behind our house. Unaware that we were in harm’s way, my husband and I walked up to a fire road behind our home and saw a bright glow in the distance. At the same time bullhorns could be heard giving orders to evacuate. First responders soon arrived at our front door and told us that we had only minutes to evacuate. My husband, youngest daughter, son and my elderly mother-in-law left the house we had lived in for over 25 years.
The following morning, we learned that our home and studio were completely gone. Someone sent us a text with an image of what remained—just our chimney, now resting in the driveway. It appeared as if there had been a massive explosion in the house.
Three days later, two Sheriff’s officers escorted us back to the site where our home once stood. While standing in front of the rubble, I realized we were homeless and that our lives had changed forever. The destruction was staggering, and it was difficult to register the totality of our loss. But as I looked closer, I noticed a certain strange and unexpected beauty in the ashes I began to recognize objects—a pin, a wristwatch, a statuette of a clown, camera bodies and kitchen tools. As I held the objects in my hand, I had a feeling of rediscovering memories of my past. Overwhelmed by a need to document them, I carefully placed each object on the back of the black rubber glove that was used to comb through the wreckage, using my iPhone camera to record these remnants of my life. Out of the firestorm, a body of photographic work evolved which I have I titled Forage From Fire.
The tragedy that we experienced as a community can be overwhelming and paralyzing. As an artist I search for meaning and beauty during moments of despair. After the shock, this photographic project helped me break through. More than documenting a loss, I hope my project provides inspiration to others recovering from trauma. I continue to excavate memories and embrace the blank slate.”
Forage From Fire is dedicated to the 44 individuals who died in the 2017 Northern California wildfires.
My heartfelt thanks go to San Francisco Camerawork; curator Ann Trinca; Dickerman Prints; Arts Council Napa Valley; Sarah Anderson, Dayna and Adam Freedhand for opening their hearts and homes; Maria Bebe Manubens, Jane Baldwin, Lonnie Graham and Gayle Daniels for their wisdom; my husband Sergio M. Manubens, and my children Juliana, Milos and Frida. – Norma I. Quintana
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