Cara Despain

Miami, Florida
Ecological Art, Documentary Film

For the last two years, Cara Despain has been collecting burnt debris from wildfires in the western United States and using them to create “carbon paintings” that serve as markers of a changing climate and sustained forest mismanagement, existing in memoriam of the consequences of human habitation on the planet. Collecting from sites such as the Woolsey Fire in Malibu, and the Camp Fire in Paradise, California, each piece in the series corresponds to a specific fire. Large-scale canvases are saturated with pure carbon, resulting in overwhelming visualizations of large-scale systems change. The works are meant to conceptually inhabit the lineage of landscape painting, but represent spent/wrecked vistas and places rather than pristine wilderness. Traveling to these sites herself allows the artist to bear witness to and document the burn scars post-fire. A cornerstone of the project, Despain will create a short documentary of her travel, process, experience collecting/documenting the bush fires in Australia, where she will be in residence in late-2021.

Cara Despain is an artist working in film and video, sculpture, photography, and installation addressing issues of land use and ownership, climate change, visualizing the Anthropocene and the problematics of frontierism. She was born in Salt Lake City and currently lives in Miami, and works between the two. She has received numerous awards and grants including the Salt Lake City Mayor’s Award in visual arts, the South Florida Consortium Fellowship and will complete a public art commission with Miami-Dade County in 2021. She has been Art Director on two feature films, including The Strongest Man (Sundance Film Festival selection 2015).