Artist Statement Bobbie Rae Jones
This art piece was made for Aislinn Boone as part of the exhibition Remembered: What Was Lost in the Campfire, where an artist adopted a survivor. This piece is dedicated to her and all Camp Fire survivors I’ve had the opportunity to meet, work with and call community. When I create a work of art with a community member, the connection between us is ongoing. The interview and follow-up conversations create a word bank of imagery that becomes the content for the work of art. Although it can be, my intent is not so much therapeutic but meant to be a method to express personal information to make it public. I wish to advocate for underrepresented populations and give them a voice through visual imagery. I use art to build community and it is my form of activism.
The initial imagery of Aislinn’s story was frightening and horrific as she described scenes while escaping the fire. My intent is to relieve the negative imagery from the imagination while I create a space for the eyes to rest on that will activate the psyche to recognize some semblance of wisdom associated with the experience. The flower and star is the symbol of the mandala, a circle with a center point that balances and acts to unify a fractured psyche. Aislinn told me the geometric shapes and stars give her serenity. “Blazing Wisdom Flame” is symbolic of the inherent wisdom found in any situation with imagery influenced by the master artists of Tibetan Buddhist School of Nyigma traditions and philosophy.
Aislinn Boone post on Facebook page “What Was Lost in the Fire”
“I got up early that morning, to go to school, but missed the earlier bus. I was waiting around for the second bus a few hours later, (not even thinking about the softly raining ash) until a man drove up and frantically told me to go back home. My roommates were having their morning coffee, not in a rush, almost relaxed. Reasurring me that the fire was farther away. They misheard the location apparently, and became panicky when the sky started darkening. I had gathered most of the things i brought with me, and thinking that at least something would survive, i left a lot of things behind.
We piled all 7 of us (and their dog, Freya) and as many belongings as we could into the two cars, by this point the sky was pitch black, and we could feel the heat. We spent hours on the roads, in complete gridlock. We watched people around us abandon their cars to try and outrun the fires, nothing but blankets covering their mouths. Did you know that fire sounds a lot like rumbling thunder? At least when there's that much of it.
I was told to call the police, and i did, and the first responder actually told me to not call again, because of how many people were already calling about it. About an 8th of the way through the drive out, i switched cars, and almost immediately afterwards, we started seeing the fire beside us on the road. My roommates saw their childhood home on the side of the road, completely engulfed in flames.
I could feel the heat radiating in waves through the doors of the car.
There's one image i haven't been able to get out of my head. One of the poles holding up the power lines had been burned through, and fell on to the road. Across some kind of van/jeep kind of car, big and boxy. There was a family inside, trapped from the electricity running through the metal. The parents were trying to throw their kids out of the car through the windows so they wouldn't touch the metal. Even though the wires and the asphalt were the same color, the coiling, sparking wires stood out so vividly. They've burned themselves into my retina.
The rest is just a blur of tar black and dancing orange until we got onto the highway. I might've cried when i say the clearing sky. Or i might've been too tired to cry, everything else about that day just kinda... erased itself.”
December 2018 - January 2019. My first day to recover after months of activity was the few days around Christmas 2018. I had been unable to paint since the fire hit. I felt frozen and stifled with the suffering. I took out newsprint and graphite and therapeutically scribbled. I drew very little for a few weeks but by January I was beginning to feel more creatively expressive as the drawing of the rose expresses.
Since the fire, I’ve been limited in my ability to produce figural realism. My creative impulses went directly to working with the people displaced by the Camp Fire in my Butte County community. At the Disaster Recovery Center I volunteered with Tzu Chi to distribute funds while comforting people, and then volunteering at schools to make art with students and teachers who lost homes and schools. I offered my massage clients of moment of respite and peace.
For eight months in 2018, I had a private student who I taught art with and had became friends. After the fire we turned to producing abstract art. Her daughter and granddaughter had lost their home in Paradise and she had recently been given notice of eviction by the landlord. Her landlord also had a daughter who lost a home in Paradise and evicted the tenants to be replaced by her own daughter. Through the disaster, we studied process over image and final product. We talked about creativity, solutions, dreams and the imagination. This moment gave me ground to continue working amidst the loss, chaos and tragedy.
Over a month after the fire, I sat down at my drafting board to free associate in drawing. I used charcoal on large newsprint to therapeutically make random marks. I had studied trauma specialized responses in disasters, art therapy processes and learned about secondary trauma exposure from the book Trauma Stewardship by Laura van Dernoot Lipsky. Amidst the flood of imagery of fire, ash, burn victims, loss, grief and mental illness, I continued to lack the ability for realism. The imagery, emotions and content from the fire and ongoing disaster rose to the surface in my mind and art. Terror, suffering, loss, grief consumed my mental cavity and drawing surface. The humanitarian in me constantly worried about the care and welfare of her community.
I continued to work. The muse in me constantly processed the experience. Inspiration to create works of art in various new processes with found objects from the fire consumed me. Like in my Nurturing Strength Series, I want to work with people. I want to work with them and the remains of materials from the fire that devastated their home and community. The process is ongoing and will continue as I show up as a secondary responder to the event.
It is a Social Practice
Mission statement – My Mission in all the facets of my life, including fine art, is to find the shift. The shift is the moment when pain is relieved, suffering dissolves, insight is understood toward a moment of complete surrender to the great mystery. This occurs in my work in art, education, massage, Pilates and in my home and community.
The recent events in my community regarding the ongoing disaster relief for Camp Fire is my primary concern. I find that any artistic pursuits include working closely with people affected by the fire. We have all been affected here in Butte county.