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Art from ashes Mount Lemmon fires inspire tree sculpture memorial

JAKE LACEY/Arizona Daily Wildcat
"Resilience and Resurrection" - Sculpture graduate student Kate Hodges built a towering memorial across from the Park Student Union to remember the 2003 forest fires that devastated Mount Lemmon. Made from trees brought down from the mountain, the sculpture stands 30 feet tall.
By Andi Berlin
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, April 28, 2005
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Where everyone else looked up and saw only the bleak landscape of disaster, Kate Hodges found art.

It almost seems impossible that anything positive could have come out of the 2003 fire at Mount Lemmon. Lasting for weeks and destroying the homes of people all over the area, the incident would normally be one to try to forget.

But Hodges, a sculpting graduate student, thinks there are many important lessons we can learn from what happened. That is why she has devoted the past eight months to creating a tribute to the infamous fire.

This tribute comes in the form of two gigantic 30-foot-tall trees brought down from the area at the time of the incident. Hodges has spent almost every day of the last two semesters carving designs into them and painting lines with charcoal along their trunks. She will unveil her work, "Resilience and Resurrection," Saturday at 4 p.m. on Park Avenue between Fourth Avenue and Sixth Street on the east side of the road.

According to Hodges, the project is not just about the environment and being ecologically conscientious; it is about connection.


"I purposely wanted to resurrect (the trees) in memory of the fire and help connect people in this community here to the landscape around them and have them think a little bit about where they live and what the environment is like around them," Hodges said. "Because we get so busy in our world, we forget where we live, we forget our connection to where we are."

Hodges thinks looking at the trees can give us a greater appreciation of where we are in the world, both geographically and historically. Beside the two larger trees, Hodges also has included three pieces of wood (donated from the Lab for Tree Ring Research) dating back to the 1500s. Passerby can look at their growth process indicated by the finely polished tree rings and pick out important dates in history.

"Tree rings are a natural timeline that help us learn about the whole history, not only about the life of the tree, but about history in general because through tree rings we can study archeology, climatology, ecology. All these different sciences," she said.

The trees were Hodges' inspiration to do the project in the first place. She has been working with trees since she grew up on an apple orchard in Vermont.

The trees also contain symbolic and metaphorical messages that we can apply to our own lives. Hodges thinks that the fire scars, which inspired her carvings, are a symbol of recovery. Similarly, she believes in the inherent resilient element within people that allows them to bounce back from any situation, no matter how horrible.

"I wanted to do something to remind people that even though we lose things, there's this element of rebirth that comes out of that," she said.

While she was inspired by the sculptural form of the tree trunks early on, the important theme and symbolism of the project came later.

"And all those things came out of the artwork. I didn't think of those things beforehand. Emotions come out of the art, not the other way around," Hodges said.

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