State of the Forest

February 1 – April 28, 2024 | Wed-Sun 11am-4pm | Included with Museum Admission

World Forestry Center’s first art exhibit of the year, State of the Forest, brings into full color the detailed aftermath of a wildfire.

Painted over a ten-year period, artist Suze Woolf captures the unusual beauty of the fire-carved snags, known as “totems,” from all over the North American West.

Studies of individual trees became her metaphor for human impact: our predilection for cooking the planet.

Everywhere these totems are the same—carbonized and eaten away—yet different; the physics of the fire and the tree’s biological structure combined to make unique sculptures. Each ridge, fissure, and layer becomes its own landscape. Char remains iridescent for up to a decade, reflecting local light and color.

Suze’s original paintings have been digitally reproduced at full size on fabric. A solid layer and a sheer layer are suspended together to create volume, and the softness of the fabric is a counterintuitive reminder of the fragility of a forest usually perceived as permanent. The sheer layer adds an almost video-like motion effect as you walk by.

The fire was an inevitability, you’ve been saying, a natural process too-long thwarted in these dark, dense forests.

Lorena Williams, author

Fourteen of the trees have companion “story trees:” white text on black shapes that correspond to the trees they reference. Author Lorena Williams, a wildland firefighter, contributes perspectives on each tree portrait from a range of emotional, scientific, fictional, poetic, and prosaic points of view, inviting viewers to go beyond the usual “ugly” or “tragic” interpretations.

Fire season is following an increasingly catastrophic trend for our communities, our wildlife, and our forests

World Forestry Center seeks to amplify the voices of community members who are deepening their understanding of wildfire, and we are proud to feature an exhibit that explores the relationship between art and wildfire. We hope it will invite more people to engage in the conversation because wildfire affects everyone.

STATE OF THE FOREST by Suze Woolf from Environmental Impact II, Produced by David J. Wagner, L.L.C., David J. Wagner, Ph.D., Curator/Tour Director.


Meet the Artists

Suze Woolf explores media from watercolor to paper-casting, artist books, pyrography, and installation.

She exhibits across the U.S. and Canada with work in public and private collections. Suze has been an artist in residence in Zion, Glacier, Capitol Reef, Great Basin, and North Cascades National Parks and an invited resident at art colonies such as the Banff Centre, Vermont Studio Center, Willowtail Springs, Jentel, Playa, Centrum, Mineral School, and Sitka Center for Art & Ecology. She has received awards from arts organizations and universities. Learn more about Suze on her website or subscribe to her blog.

Lorena Williams is a writer, educator, and traveler. She has worked seasonally as a wildland firefighter for the U.S. Forest Service. After earning her MFA, she taught English, creative writing, composition, and ESL at Chatham and Duquesne Universities. She is now the Shared Stewardship Communications

Specialist for San Juan National Forest in Durango, CO.

Lorena was born and raised in eastern Oregon, where she developed a passion for both reading and bushwhacking. Her writing is closely tied with her love of land, working on the family farm, whitewater rafting, traveling, and fighting fire. Learn more about Lorena on her website.