Art Exhibit With Burned Trees From Idaho Wildfire Challenges Human Role In Nature

Oct 14, 2016

The day before his new exhibit opening in downtown Boise, Giuseppe Licari takes a break from building his installation. Licari sits in the courtyard behind Ming Studios sipping an espresso as he takes a puff of his cigarette. As it turns out, the Sicilian-born artist is kind of obsessed with smoke – and what it means for a landscape. 

“So in a way, metaphorically, this burning landscape somehow reflects the burning political situation we are in and the results we are seeing also in contemporary society," says Licari. "Not just in the States or in Europe, but in the world.”

Licari says he didn’t know much about Idaho before he applied for Ming’s artist-in-residency program. The artist has spent the last month and a half collecting, disassembling and then reconfiguring burned trees – many of them from the Pioneer Fire. The gigantic wildfire was the largest in the country this year, burning almost 300 square miles.

Licari says he left the bolts exposed in the trees to make viewers consider the architectural use of wood. He calls them "Frankentrees."
Credit Frankie Barnhill / Boise State Public Radio

Getting the 25 charred trees from the Boise National Forest to the urban gallery was a crash course in American land management and red tape. After enlisting the help of some smokejumpers, Licari anchored the trees in the cement floor and bolted them together, blending the natural with the architectural.

“Confronting this with the pristine and white clean space of the gallery, you know. They get new life.”

The exhibit, called "Contrappunto," opens at 7:00 p.m. at Ming Studios.  

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