1 April 2023

Post-fire exhibition shows regenerative nature of Snowy Valleys forests

| Edwina Mason
Start the conversation
art exhibit

An exhibition that documents the post-bushfire regeneration of forests in the Snowy Valleys has been extended by two weeks in Batlow due to its popularity. Photo: Acorn Creative.

An art exhibition that explores the post-fire regeneration of forests in the Snowy Valleys has been extended a fortnight longer in Batlow due to its popularity.

Mid Stories is a multi-artform exhibition exploring the recovery of areas burnt in the 2019-2021 Black Summer bushfires in the Snowy Valleys and Upper Murray region.

The works dissect and interpret the destruction, regeneration and alternate landscapes through various art forms including photography, video, solargraphy, augmented reality and installation.

Through the eyes of regional artists Vanessa Keenan and Nat Ord, the exhibition reveals just some of the stories currently unfolding as the landscape and community heal.

Both are trained professional photographers. Vanessa is also an experienced arts and cultural manager and has curated several exhibitions as well as a large-scale festival.

Nat is an award-winning fine-art photographer and sculptor working across a variety of media.

Both Vanessa and Nat have lived experiences of the bushfires.

Along with her family, Vanessa sheltered in a bunker in the Maragle Valley for three hours during the Dunn’s Road fire on New Year’s Eve 2019; her ordeal was covered by international media.

READ ALSO From fire comes Fellowship for Vanessa

On the first anniversary of the fires, Vanessa curated the Arbour Festival, which was a creative recovery project that ran over 50 days, the same length of time that the fire burned.

“This exhibition is the next step in my three years of examining the impacts of the fires on our landscape and communities through an artistic lens,” she said.

“As anyone impacted by the fires knows, the experience doesn’t ever leave you but rather shapes you into the future.”

two women in the forest

Nat Ord (left) and Vanessa Keenan have lived experiences of the bushfires. Photo: Acorn Creative.

Along with postgraduate qualifications in natural resource management, Nat worked as a professional forest firefighter in the early 2000s and battled the 2003 fires that engulfed the region.

She said being able to bring her experience as an ecologist and artist together, observing the power of both ecological and social recovery was a privilege.

“It never ceases to surprise me how resilient the environment and communities are, despite such adversity,” she said.

The exhibition has been at b: ATELIER gallery in Batlow since 4 March.

Batlow was one of the towns severely impacted by the fires that swept through the Snowy Valleys, losing its old hospital, a fuel station and about 17 homes.

The gallery occupies an old Pioneer Street bank building and symbolises one artist’s voluntary efforts to help her disaster-affected town recover and renew itself in new and creative ways.

READ ALSO From fungi walks and spotlighting to art, festival shows many ways to celebrate nature

The Artists Run Initiative, with exhibitions curated and themed by professionals, was established by local sculptor Robyn Veneer Sweeney specifically to help with bushfire recovery by giving locals and visitors a unique cultural experience.

The building itself – with its four-metre-high ceilings – has been made available rent-free by the owner and patron, Potso, while the running costs and improvements have been entirely funded by Robyn, with small donations of equipment by the local arts community.

Mid Stories doesn’t end at the close of the exhibition in Batlow, with the work ongoing and a larger exhibition scheduled for display at Wagga Wagga Art Gallery in September.

Mid Stories is at the b: ATELIER gallery, 14-16 Pioneer Street, Batlow, until the end of the Easter long weekend.

It is open from 11 am to 3 pm on weekends.

Start the conversation

Daily Digest

Do you like to know what’s happening around your region? Every day the About Regional team packages up our most popular stories and sends them straight to your inbox for free. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.