Fire and Wind

As Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast last fall, the news was full of devastation and loss. We witnessed people trying to grapple with what had happened and why. And I thought of Judith Lowry.

Judith comes from Maidu/Pit River tribe that retains a strong storytelling tradition, one that she carries into her paintings.  In these stories, Judith told me, the ancestors explain the natural disasters that befall man.

Now we have begun to hear officials acknowledge that climate change, the human impact on the planet, is whipping up the gargantuan fires, mega earthquakes, and monster storms like Sandy.

Judith says her ancestors have always warned about this time and these disasters in particular. The stories foretell what will happen if the responsibilities of caring for our home we call nature are ignored.

So for some time she has been drawn to watch a lot of weather news to track the stories. And because she has witnessed the growing threat and reality of large fires and even tornados near where she lives in Nevada City, she created two new paintings ‘Fire’ and ‘Wind’ after attending the Sierra Nevada Ignite! Roundtable.

Judith’s paintings share her Ancestors counsel that humans should take care of their home, the land, and to live as a part of nature.

In the Ignite! The Art of Sustainability exhibit,  ‘Fire” and ‘Wind’ vividly and richly portray the prophesized storms. They stand as cautionary tales that call for a new reverence and deepened understanding of the places we inhabit.

Artists by nature are storytellers. Sometimes the story is a personal viewpoint and at other times, a great saga. The story of Ignite! is about the legacy of human interaction with nature in California as told through a regional lens.  Each artist is steeped not only the history of this interaction, the ‘settling’ of the West, but also in the story of their own place. These rich stories, like Judith’s, have never been more important.

–  Kate Davies, Curator for Ignite! The Art of Sustainability


Paintings “Fire” and “Wind” by Judith Lowry, on display at the UC Davis Design Museum.

Photo by Barbara Malloy.


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