Did You Have a Good Burn?—the Activist Art of Mavis Muller

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.

Mavis Muller 1This is that story.

Here is how the Burning Basket project is described on Mavis’s website.

Mavis Muller 2“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.”

Mavis Muller 3After the Rasmuson Ceremony we talked a bit about how we might get Mavis to McCarthy, but nothing happened.

Mavis Muller 4Last 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.

Mavis Muller 5I was so excited by these images, that I reconnected with Mavis AND I wrote a blog post about her work at Salmon Stock.

Mavis Muller 6This 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 Muller 6Mavis brought a car load of materials that she had collected during her drive from Homer to McCarthy.

Mavis Muller 8We hauled all of those materials over the footbridge when Mavis arrived.

Mavis Muller 7Locals also donated weaving materials.

thumb_IMG_8212_1024She arrived Friday June 17th in the late afternoon and immediately began building the basket.

thumb_IMG_8206_1024She had only four days to weave. Her building site was in front of the Wrangell Mountains Center’s Old Hardware Store in downtown, McCarthy.

Mavis Muller 9I 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.

thumb_IMG_8479_1024On Solstice, the basket was wheeled up the street and installed in a public setting.

thumb_IMG_8731_1024Tourists and locals alike were invited to tie ribbons on the basket and engage with the art and the artist.thumb_IMG_8735_1024

thumb_IMG_8725_1024thumb_IMG_8748_1024At 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.

thumb_IMG_8755_1024thumb_IMG_8764_1024thumb_IMG_8776_1024What a beautiful location for a celebration that connected our community, our mountains, and our watershed.thumb_IMG_8809_1024

thumb_IMG_8803_1024thumb_IMG_8815_1024I was invited to help light the basket.

DSC_0120_2This was serious business for me, but Mavis gave all of us very clear instructions and the basket went beautifully and safely up in flames.

thumb_IMG_8849_1024To be part of a group gathered to watch art turn into flame was quite spectactular.

thumb_IMG_8871_1024It was really like having one of your dreams come true.

thumb_IMG_8844_1024 If you are interested in learning more about Mavis and her work please visit her website and her Facebook page.  LIKE her!

thumb_IMG_8876_1024Maybe she will visit your community?

thumb_IMG_8888_1024I highly recommend it. Thank you Mavis. May your next burn be as wonderful as this one was.

This entry was published on June 30, 2016 at 11:57 AM. It’s filed under Art in Place, News And Events and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

8 thoughts on “Did You Have a Good Burn?—the Activist Art of Mavis Muller

  1. metaphysicalquilter on said:

    It’s like hippie block party meets burning man. Very cool

  2. Counts as fiber performance art I think?

  3. 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!

  4. justaimless on said:

    Mavis does incredible work! So glad McCarthy got to share!

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