Fire Line art exhibit shows grit, determination of forest firefighters in northwestern Ontario

·2 min read
The nine forest firefighters, featured in the Fire Line, are seen in a collage of the hand-drawn portraits by Red Lake, Ont., artist Jennifer Globush. (Submitted by Jennifer Globush - image credit)
The nine forest firefighters, featured in the Fire Line, are seen in a collage of the hand-drawn portraits by Red Lake, Ont., artist Jennifer Globush. (Submitted by Jennifer Globush - image credit)

For the past two summers, people who live in Red Lake, Ont., have thanked local volunteer firefighters and forest firefighters for keeping their community safe.

In 2020, the community was evacuated because of a nearby fire. In 2021, the community was on an evacuation alert, with some people voluntarily leaving the community and some of the most vulnerable people being moved out.

It's the work of these forest firefighters, often working in remote areas, in all weather and temperatures, that caught the attention of local artist Jennifer Globush.

"I've developed a very intimate appreciation for the people who choose to live and work in the north. I've found northerners to have an extraordinary sense of character."

The result is Fire Line, an exhibit featuring the faces of nine forest firefighters, coming off of a shift in the Red Lake area.

"I feel like the unseen hard labour is at the root of this character," said Globush, who said she gravitates to people who work in the north at traditional labour jobs, that are often out of the public eye, yet, are crucial to the economy.

Submitted by Jennifer Globush
Submitted by Jennifer Globush

"The Fire Line series was an attempt to recognize the labour and sacrifice that the men and women keeping the forest, the wildlife and its dispersed residents safe from disaster up here."

Globush started off the project by meeting with a number of forest firefighters and taking photos of them, after a shift of working in the bush.

"There's a moment, where they are kind of able to let down their guard, and even though I don't know them personally, you can tell it's a more true representation of themselves, when they become a little relaxed. So, that was the real task in trying to capture what the person really looked like."

Then, Globush starts to draw out the faces of those she photographed, in intricate detail, in what is called a drafting style grid formation.

"There's an intimate experience in getting to know the person's face in extremely high detail."

Globush said it takes between 50 and 100 hours to complete the portrait that she draws.

The exhibit was then hung in a burnt over area and with photos taken of the nine faces hung in burnt trees.

While the exhibit was never publicly shown, because of pandemic restrictions, as well as a high forest fire hazard, to keep people out of the bush, Globush said the work can be seen on her Instagram page.

Globush said her next project is highlighting volunteer firefighters and first responders in the northwest, along with a larger drawing series looking at economic and environmental issues with fishing between northern Canada and Iceland.

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