Cara Despain’s work navigates issues of land use—often using the legacy of romantic landscape depictions as a lens—as it relates historically to settlement, expansion, oppression, resource exploitation, and the development of the military-industrial complex in the North American frontier. For the last three years, Despain has been collecting burnt debris from wildfires in the western US and using them to create large-scale ‘carbon paintings’ that serve as markers of forest mismanagement and exist in memoriam of the consequences of human habitation on the planet. She has collected from the East Troublesome Fire (CO), Dixie Fire (CA) and Camp Fire (Paradise, CA) Woolsey Fire (Malibu, CA) burn scars among many others, and will be in residence in Australia later this year to collect debris from the bush fires.


image: Cara Despain, “it doesn’t look like paradise anymore (Camp Fire, CA 2019),” 2021. Carbon residue from burnt debris. Courtesy of the artist.