In 2014, I met Mavis Muller at a Rasmuson Individual Artist Awards Ceremony . As Mavis received her award, images of large burning baskets were shown behind her. I knew her ideas and her art would be a perfect fit for the small mountain community of McCarthy, Alaska.
This is that story.
Here is how the Burning Basket project is described on Mavis’s website.
“In 2004, I began the Burning Basket Project as an experience of interactive, impermanent art. Gathered from my background in creating baskets and woven with the desire to engage the public in a unique, living art form, I have facilitated burning baskets in many communities. The large, intricate basket is given as a gift to the people, infused with decoration and spirit by willing participants, and finally burned, dramatically and upwardly releasing positive messages and heartfelt sentiments.”
After the Rasmuson Ceremony we talked a bit about how we might get Mavis to McCarthy, but nothing happened.
Last year, I learned about Mavis’s art at the Salmon Stock Music Festival in Ninilchik, Alaska. Every year at the festival, she invites the community to create a human body message about the preciousness of our watersheds.
I was so excited by these images, that I reconnected with Mavis AND I wrote a blog post about her work at Salmon Stock.
This year, Mavis is Weaving the Watersheds of Alaska. She is traveling the state and engaging with communities by weaving baskets from indigious materials and then conducting a burning ceremony of that basket. In conjunction with the Weaving the Watersheds project, The Wrangell Mountains Center invited Mavis to be a visiting artist for Solstice. She would build a basket for our community and conduct a burning ceremony on the McCarthy Creek bed. Finally, it was happening!
Mavis brought a car load of materials that she had collected during her drive from Homer to McCarthy.
We hauled all of those materials over the footbridge when Mavis arrived.
Locals also donated weaving materials.
She arrived Friday June 17th in the late afternoon and immediately began building the basket.
She had only four days to weave. Her building site was in front of the Wrangell Mountains Center’s Old Hardware Store in downtown, McCarthy.
I watched Mavis from across the street weave and weave and weave—almost from sun up to sun down which is a nearly impossible feat this time of year in Alaska.
As she built the basket, community members stopped by to chat and engage with Mavis and her art.
On Solstice, the basket was wheeled up the street and installed in a public setting.
Tourists and locals alike were invited to tie ribbons on the basket and engage with the art and the artist.
At about nine o’clock in the evening on Solstice, the entire crowd followed the basket down the dirt road that leads to the edge of the McCarthy Creek.
What a beautiful location for a celebration that connected our community, our mountains, and our watershed.
I was invited to help light the basket.
This was serious business for me, but Mavis gave all of us very clear instructions and the basket went beautifully and safely up in flames.
To be part of a group gathered to watch art turn into flame was quite spectactular.
It was really like having one of your dreams come true.
If you are interested in learning more about Mavis and her work please visit her website and her Facebook page. LIKE her!
Maybe she will visit your community?
I highly recommend it. Thank you Mavis. May your next burn be as wonderful as this one was.
It’s like hippie block party meets burning man. Very cool
That is a great way to describe it!
Counts as fiber performance art I think?
Martha- My thoughts EXCATLY. I really want Fiberart International to have her in PIttsburgh. It would be such a great event!
FABULOUS – thank your so much for sharing Maria…loved the story, seeing your community pulling together and best, the totally focused community spirit!
A great read and great idea for community’s across North America… if you have to burn something, destroy something, feel empowered, do it in this way and make it count! What a positive take on LOVE!
Thank you Bethany. It was an amazing event. I know you would have enjoyed the art and Mavis.
Mavis does incredible work! So glad McCarthy got to share!
You are so right! We were incredibly luck to have Mavis share her work with us this solstice!