Basket art lights up Salmon Jam

Muller’s basket to be lit on fire during Salmon Jam Festival

Water Matters – Basket of Gratitude and Celebration, is the 37th and latest piece of interactive, impermanent woven art created by Mavis Muller, an artist and naturalist from Homer.

The basket was scheduled to be installed today at Salmon Jam Festival grounds, on Mt. Eyak, and lit on fire late on the night of July 15.

Since 2004, the Homer artist has installed her baskets in Alaska, California, on the New Mexico and Mexico border, the Gulf of Mexico, Washington state, and Spain, she said.

Her four-day workshop, at a tent set up near the Cordova Center parking lot, began with a few folks collecting alder and willow branches, and wild grasses from the local watershed for creation of the intricate sculpture.

Muller said the size and shape of the basket was yet to be determined, but she was considering a circular, round shape, perhaps in the shape of a birthday cake, to celebrate the Salmon Jam Festival’s 15th anniversary.

Muller said she was hopeful that more people would see the project taking place during the week and would join in on the basket’s creation, thus becoming a part of the art.

Everyone is invited to tie on ribbons of solidarity with gratitude, and in celebration for the salmon that sustain us, the fisheries we depend on, and the waterways we love, she said.

Other interactive materials were also provided to embellish and decorate the piece.

And then “the big, beautiful sculpture will be ignited and will burn to disperse and release all of our positive intentions in the sparks and flames,” she said.

Muller brought her Burning Basket Project to Cordova and the Salmon Jam Festival last year, as part of her 2016-2017 Alaska tour, called Weaving Watersheds. The tour began in Fairbanks. She also visited McCarthy, Cordova, Homer, Ketchikan, and then continued on to the Salish Sea to Port Townsend, Wash., she said.

“The tour was a series of six woven, heart-shaped baskets that symbolized our love for the waterways that connect us as communities, and as a small world. I felt like a salmon as I made the sweep across our vast state from north to south, and beyond. Returning to Cordova this year feels like a full cycle, as the salmon are also returning,” she said.

In the aftermath of last year’s Salmon Jam, the Copper River Watershed Project invited Muller to help again with this  year’s festivities.

“The impermanent art experience was well received last year, as many people of all ages enjoyed participating with the art at the festival. It was a perfectly still evening, which created a very tall flame that illuminated all of us that were gathered around to witness the dramatic performance of fire-art,” Muller said.

Muller said collaborative art brings people together.

“Art is communication. Now, more than ever, we need the language of art that goes beyond words – beyond what we already know. With our creativity and imagination, we can inspire new possibilities. (Saturday’s) basket burning in Cordova is a way to raise consciousness about the fact that water matters. Water is life. We all need clean water.

“(This) is temporary art that leaves a lasting impression. When the big basket is gone, we have no regrets. We bask in the afterglow of the memories we’ve made, while reflecting the light of the greatest fire there is, the fire of love,” Muller said.

For more information on Muller’s interactive Burning Basket Project visit mavismullerart.com.

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Cinthia Gibbens-Stimson is a staff writer and photographer for The Cordova Times. She has been writing in one form or another for 30-plus years and has had a longstanding relationship with The Cordova Times starting in 1989. She’s been an Alaskan since 1976 and first moved to Cordova in 1978. She’s lived in various West Texas towns; in Denver, Colorado; in McGrath, Cordova, Galena, Kodiak, Wasilla, Anchorage and Fairbanks, Alaska and in Bangalore, India. She has two children and three grandchildren. She can be reached at cgibbens-stimson@thecordovatimes.com or follow her on Instagram @alaskatoindia.