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Community art project memorializes Napa's recent disasters

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PORTRAIT OF DISASTER   New artwork draws from losses suffered in Napa’s fires and earthquake.
  • PORTRAIT OF DISASTER New artwork draws from losses suffered in Napa’s fires and earthquake.

Mosaic artist and longtime Napa resident Kristina Young was already three years into her massive art project memorializing items lost in Napa's 2014 earthquake when disaster struck again in the form of the Atlas Peak and Tubbs wildfires.

The Napa Quake Mosaic began as a planned community art piece made up of objects damaged and destroyed in the Aug. 24, 2014, quake. "Each person had a story about the object they would bring in," says Young. "They all had nostalgic, sentimental meanings to the people."

Whether it was part of their mother's wedding china or their child's kindergarten macaroni jewelry, the objects and their stories painted a portrait of a community reeling, but also healing, from tragedy.

"The idea of the mosaic is that, after it's completed, you can go and sit in reflection," Young says. "You can find your object that you contributed and think about what home means, what the objects in our lives mean to us."

Still in the planning stages, the mosaic found a site within the developing Rail Arts district in downtown Napa, and Young is coordinating with the Napa Valley Wine Train to donate a railcar upon which the mosaic will be assembled. Young also designed the piece, which uses the objects to represent layers of earthly sediment and an outward radiating seismic disruption. Currently fundraising for the project, Young has received grants from the Napa Valley Art Council, Mentis and other groups.

"I was literally about to go out in the community to do some kind of crowdfunding program when the fires hit," she says. "At first, I thought, 'I don't even know if [the mosaic] is relevant anymore,' because the fires impacted so many more people and were so much larger of a disaster than the earthquake."

Young decided she would broaden the mosaic's scope and add objects found in the wildfires' aftermath.

"This is very in line with what the original concept of the project was," says Young. "It's documenting the process of healing after a trauma. Whether it's an earthquake or fire or any other natural disaster, the healing process is an important one."

Young is reaching out to those affected by the fires in Napa County and asking for any objects they may want to donate to the mosaic. She has already received objects from several artists who lost their studios in the fire, among them, Napa photographer Norma Quintana.

Calistoga-based landscape painter Karen Lynn Ingalls, who lost her barn studio in the Tubbs fire, will also be contributing some of her recovered items.

"These objects are important to people's lives; they can't keep them, but they can't throw them away either," Young says.

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