In the exhibit Fire Season, part of the museum’s yearlong Focus on Photography, which began in 2014, a handful of American photographers — Jane Fulton Alt, Patricia Galagan, Greg Mac Gregor, Philip Metcalf, and Larry Schwarm — capture the dramatic changes wildfires and controlled burns bring to the environment. Some focus on fire’s more destructive capacities, while others look to its role in the regeneration of forests, but each presents selections that record the dangerous beauty of this most alluring of elements.
Fulton Alt’s imagery of controlled burns on the prairie — haunting smoke-filled landscapes — take on aspects of minimalist, abstract compositions. Galagan’s photographs document new growth in areas ravaged by wildfires; a carpet of green undergrowth surrounds the charred remnants of what was once a forested landscape, and bone-like trunks of aspens appear from beneath peeling skins of singed bark. In a photo by Mac Gregor, the dramatic plume from a fire in the Pecos wilderness soars high above the Sangre de Cristos, the Rail Runner resting at a station in the foreground. The image is a reminder of the proximity of civilization to the might of nature’s wrath. Metcalf ’s Fire Ghosts series captures a sense of the extent of fire devastation in stark black-and-white photographs: the scorched trunks of trees fill the melancholy landscape in a pattern of vertical lines, appearing as though drawn or etched by hand. Schwarm’s dramatic shots of a land aflame capture the awe-inspiring, other-worldly beauty and power of fire. Running concurrently with Fire Season are two other
Focus on Photography exhibits: To Feel Less Alone: Gay Block, a Portrait and Photo Lab, a revolving show that explores the techniques and tools of historic and alternative forms of photography. — M.A. “Fire Season” runs through Sunday, July 26, at the New Mexico Museum of Art, 107 W. Palace Ave., 505-476-5072. Entrance is by museum admission.
Greg Mac Gregor: Tres Lagunas Fire, 2013, pigment print