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The Mystery of the Fire Trees of Southeast Alaska

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The Mystery of the Fire Trees of Southeast Alaska by Mary Ida Henrikson.

Did the early Tlingits and Haidas of Southeastern Alaska develop innovations for preserving fire for heat, light and cooking, well ahead of their time? While no written record can be found, artist Mary Henrikson, who grew up in the region, paid close attention to oral histories on their unique fire storage technology. Then, working with local boatman, she discovered carefully altered, centuries-old cedar trees with deeply burned interiors, apparently vented with slots to project firelight signals along their coasts. Inspired, the well-known artist crafted a series of paintings on fire tree use, in addition to employing investigative techniques favored by scientists. Her work combines both approaches in hopes of inspiring your own speculation.

Mary Ida Henrikson was born and raised in Ketchikan Alaska and was influenced by the adventure writers, photographers and artists grouped around the Alaska Sportsman Magazine that was published in Ketchikan. She studied art history, English literature, fine art, and philosophy at Central Washington University and Claremont Graduate University. She found inspiration through the changing environments inherent in work on the North Slope, Alaska Marine Highway and the fishing industry. Mary also taught at Ketchikan Community College and University of Alaska Southeast. In 1990 she founded Danger Island Studio on Creek Street in Ketchikan.


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