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Fire Kinship: Southern California Native Ecology and Art

Fire Kinship: Southern California Native Ecology and Art

January 12 – May 25, 2025

Prior to the colonization of Southern California in the 18th century, Native communities throughout the region deployed controlled fire regimes to ensure the vitality of their local ecosystems. Fire-based land management practices ranged from small burns to spur healthy plant growth, to larger ones that strategically eradicated invasive species and reduced fuel loads (preventing catastrophic fires). Fire Kinship counters the attitudes of fear and illegality around fire, arguing for a return to Native practices, in which fire is regarded as a vital aspect of land stewardship, community wellbeing, and tribal sovereignty. These conversations have been shaped by key community leaders throughout Southern California: Lazaro Arvizu (Tongva), Marlene’ Dusek (Payómkawichum, Kúupangawish, Kumeyaay, and Czech), William Madrigal (Cahuilla/ Payómkawichum), Wesley Ruise Jr. (La Jolla Band of Luiseño Indians), Stanley Rodriguez (Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel), William Pink (Pala Band of Luiseño Mission Indians), Lorene Sisquoc (Mountain Cahuilla/ Fort Sill Apache), and Myra Masiel-Zamora (Pechanga Band of Indians).

The baskets, ollas, rabbit sticks, bark skirts, and canoes presented in this exhibition were made possible through the relationship between people, place, and fire. Commissioned video, sculpture, portrait paintings, and installations by contemporary artists such as Weshoyot Alvitre (Tongva and Scottish), Emily Clarke (Cahuilla Band of Indians), Gerald Clarke Jr. (Cahuilla Band of Indians), Leah Mata Fragua (Yak Tityu Tityu Yak Tiłhini Northern Chumash), Summer Herrera (Payómkawichum), Lazaro Arvizu (Tongva), and Marlene’ Dusek (Payómkawichum, Kúupangawish, Kumeyaay, and Czech) respond to and rejoin the cultural and historical objects, spurring a dialogue of critique, reflection, and futurity. The exhibition presents a living history that centers the expertise of Tongva, Cahuilla, Luiseño, and Kumeyaay communities. Fire Kinship reintroduces fire as a generative element, one that connects us to our past and offers a collective path toward a sustainable future.

Contributing participants include:
Kat Anderson (University of California, Davis; Department of Plant Sciences)
Rosemary Cabrera (Cahuilla and Serrano descendent)
Victoria Chubb (Morongo Band of Mission Indians)
Roseanne Hamilton (Cahuilla Band of Indians)
Tishmal Herrera (La Jolla Band of Luiseño Indians/Pala, Pechanga, and Torres Martinez Desert) Cassandra
Kihúut Alaniz (Pechanga Band of Indians and Mexican)
Martha Knight (Pomo)
Blossom Maciel (Mountain Cahuilla and Fort Sill Apache)
Kateri Madrigal (Cahuilla/Payómkawichum)
Priscilla Ortiz (Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel)
Vikki R. Preston (Karuk Tribe)
Andrew Pittman and Lisset Valencia-Pittman (Los Coyotes Band of Cahuilla and Cupeño Indians, and Ipai)

This exhibition is organized by the Fowler Museum at UCLA and curated by Daisy Ocampo Diaz (Caxcan), Assistant Professor of History at CSUSB; Michael Chavez (Tongva), former Archaeological Collections Manager, NAGPRA Project Manager, Fowler Museum; and Lina Tejeda (Pomo), Graduate Student Research Assistant, CSUSB.

Fire Kinship is among more than 60 exhibitions and programs presented as part of PST ART. Returning in September 2024 with its latest edition, PST ART: Art & Science Collide, this landmark regional event explores the intersections of art and science, both past and present. PST ART is presented by Getty. For more information about PST ART: Art & Science Collide, please visit PST.ART Additional funding is provided by the Pasadena Art Alliance.

Image: Weshoyot Alvitre (Tongva and Scottish), CALIFORNIA NATIVE Dormidera #2: Modesta Avila, 2023; Courtesy of the artist


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