Holy Smoke Statement
My series “Holy Smoke” documents my process of working through a strange chemistry of guilt and pleasure. During the summer of 2017, while much of my province was burning from forest fires, and while hundreds of British Columbians were fleeing homes devastated by flames, my city remained untouched. Vancouverites enjoyed the beach and the sunshine, surfed the waves, and watched the sunsets. It was, as always, a summer of ocean activities and exuberance.
Yet, as the smoke rolled in and obscured our skyline, we could not ignore the evidence of tragedy. I was conflicted by how the smoke brought awareness of crisis, and turned our joy into guilty pleasure. I reflected on how often we thrived while others suffered.
My images of that summer testify to the discord the hazy sky inserted into our privileged days by the sea. Each piece captures a moment of indulgence; it portrays our uncertainty about the way the smoke-filled city permeated our days and how we spent them. The series asks the viewer to consider that joy may be fringed by other people’s suffering, and to question how we might try to prevent their duress. In this way, “Holy Smoke” articulates both the anguish of personal and environmental disaster, and the hope that can be conjured when it becomes impossible to turn a blind eye.
“Holy Smoke” has now become a larger, ongoing body of work due to the horrible fires of 2018. As the smoke hangs over Vancouver for a second summer, the devastation demands our ongoing attention.