It is happening again. The Glass Fire began ripping through the Napa Valley in the early hours of Sunday, Sept. 27; as of press time, the blaze is destroying buildings and displacing tens of thousands of North Bay residents in both Sonoma and Napa counties.
It’s not the first time; locals know all too well the significant fire activity Northern California has endured for the last four years. Napa Valley photographer and journalist Tim Carl has captured these Napa Valley and Sonoma County wildfires on camera since 2017, creating vivid portraits of the devastation these fires left in their wakes. His images and videos also tell stories of the North Bay’s will to survive and determination to rebuild.
Several of Carl’s images and videos are on display as part of a new online exhibition, “Tested by Fire,” that opens virtually this week via Yountville’s Napa Valley Museum, which is still closed to in-person visits. The exhibition covering the fires, first responders and the aftermath that has shaped the North Bay is the first in Napa Valley Museum’s new series of virtual exhibits that the museum is calling “Real/Time: Art of the Moment.”
“The Museum is excited to launch a series of exhibitions that are focused on our community and curated in real-time, many showcasing the work of exceptional local artists,” Napa Valley Museum Executive Director Laura Rafaty says in a statement. “An exhibition on the wildfires—one of the topics on everyone’s mind at the moment—as captured in Tim Carl’s exceptionally vivid images and videos, seemed the perfect way to launch the series.”
In addition to working as a journalist and photographer, Carl is best known in Napa Valley as co-founder and former CEO of Knights Bridge Winery, and his resume includes stints as a chef, fitness instructor and even as a FAA-licensed drone operator. Carl uses his skills in photography to tell human-interest stories within the local wine and food industries.
“Each photo I take attempts to tell a story,” Carl says in his artist statement. “Often those stories are about our relationship with nature, and nowhere do they resonate more than through the near-annual fires that occur in and around California’s Wine Country. The enormous toll on lives and livelihoods of these ferocious infernos are often overshadowed by the courage, self-sacrifice, unity and resolute resiliency of the communities affected.”
The museum’s “Real/Time: Art of the Moment” series of virtual exhibits will continue to portray the community as events are happening. The next planned installment of “Real/Time” will directly examine the Covid-19 pandemic’s effects on the Napa Valley in a community-curated collection of local artwork and images submitted by Napa Valley residents and visitors.
“These virtual exhibits are not intended to replace the in-person experience of visiting our Museum,” Rafaty says. “[Yet] they do allow us to reach a much broader audience of visitors all over the world. We hope that this look at wildfires from 2017 to present will remind us of the resiliency of the valley, and of the transitory beauty of all that surrounds us.”