Tania Willard, Sensitized, Installation view: Pale Fire, 2023. Photo: NK Photo
Curated by Amy Kazmerchyk, Pale Fire Project
Text by Amy Kazmerchkk
In mid-August 2023, the Bush Creek East wildfire grew along the eastern shore of Adam’s Lake, creeping through Secwépemc territory toward Little Shuswap Lake in the southern Interior of British Columbia. The Neskonlith plateau, where Tania Willard lives and works, rises from the northern bank of the Thompson River, which feeds the lake’s southern end. In late summer, cottonwood’s leaves rattled in the wind, signalling how parched the earth was. For Willard, dawn and dusk were consumed by harvesting garlic, and her root shed was flush with bulbs strung up to dry. As a precaution, she gathered the soft filaments of fireweed seed and other highly flammable dried plants. One evening, a pyrocumulus cloud rose behind the hills to the northwest, and its dissipation cast a tawny haze. After a heavy rain, which quenched a long period of drought, the concentration of airborne particulate turned standing water the colour of rust.
The works in Sensitized bear witness to variable conditions on the land: from dewy sunrises to vivid sunsets, wildfire haze, threatening winds and miraculous rain. The exhibition features a series of cyanotypes and anthotypes, two forms of impressions made by exposing photosensitive emulsions to ultraviolet light. Willard made her anthotype base from blended wenéx, sesép and elderberries. The images