John Grade: Spark
On view through Summer 2022, Fourth Floor, West Wing
John Grade's Spark explores how wildfires are becoming more frequent and intense and impacting our shared landscapes and lives in meaningful ways. Working with the Anchorage museum in Alaska, the project began with a sculpture that will become part of the museum’s permanent collection.
The project includes a series of public conversations questioning what we might learn from forest fire ecology that can be applied to designs for shelter and refuge. Wildfires in the Circumpolar North will hold particular focus.
Fires that lead to underground root burns spanning winters to reemerge in the spring were the inspiration for the project. The initial sculpture is fabricated in alternating strata of hard and soft woods.
The fissures within the sculpture mimic glacial crevasses, and will carry flame through the sculpture's interior, burning its surfaces. The second sculpture within the project was introduced directly into the path of a wildfire in the summer of 2021 in Alaska. This second sculpture was fabricated with wood, steel, and cast concrete.
Spark engages communities in the following questions:
What might we learn from forest fire ecology that we can apply to designs for shelter and refuge?
How can public art engage communities in critical issues in ways other forms of education and awareness and advocacy might not?
How might forested landscapes impacted by fires relate to changing conditions beyond tree line in alpine and Polar regions?
Can a sculpture increase awareness of practical ways we might protect our homes, families and forests?
Image: John Grade (b. 1970). "Spark," 2021 – 2022. Alaskan yellow cedar and purple heart.