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Daily Art Moment: Buzzy Sullivan

Our thoughts are with the one-tenth of Oregon’s population displaced and affected by wildfires.

“The smoke and strange light currently blanketing the landscape brought to mind this photograph on view in our exhibition Volcano! Mount St. Helens in Art. It shows nature rebounding in the Toutle River Valley thirty-seven years after the area was scoured by the eruption on May 18, 1980. We view the scene through smoke from the 2017 Diamond Creek Fire, which was started by careless campers far away in north central Washington.

The photograph comes from a large body of works that Buzzy Sullivan is creating of Mount St. Helens and the surrounding area. Buzzy is part mountain goat and doesn’t mind hauling his equipment to distant viewpoints, but this photograph was made from a spot near the Johnston Ridge Observatory, so the view is well known to many of you. I thought it was an important photograph to display near the end of the exhibition because it reveals the severity of human impact on the environment. Between 2000 and 2017, 84% of wildland fires in the United States were caused by human activity.

People often assume that photography better translates into an online image than a painting, but that is not the case. Photographers go to great pains in printing their works, and the subtlety of color and tone is far more profound when viewing the print itself. For those of you who are able to visit the Museum, this work is on view through January 3, 2021; everyone can explore Volcano! online.

Dawson W. Carr, The Janet and Richard Geary Curator of European Art

Buzzy Sullivan (American, born 1979). North Fork Toutle River through smoke from the Diamond Creek wildfire, approximately six miles northwest of Mount St. Helens, 2017. Archival pigment print. Courtesy of the artist, L2019.107.3