Barbara Crane Navarro – Rainforest Art Project

Hello, thank you for visiting me here on WordPress! I’m a French artist and I live near Paris.

From 1968 to 1973 I studied at Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, Rhode Island, and then at the San Francisco Art Institute in San Francisco, California, for my BFA.

My work for many decades has been informed and inspired by time spent with indigenous communities. Various study trips devoted to the exploration of techniques and natural pigments took me originally to the Dogon of Mali, West Africa, and subsequently to Yanomami communities in Venezuela and Brazil. 

Over several years, during the winters, I studied the techniques of traditional Bogolan painting. Hand woven fabric is dyed with boiled bark from the Wolo tree, or crushed leaves from other trees, then painted with mud from the Niger river which oxidizes in contact with the dye, making darker motifs.

Through the Dogon and the Yanomami, my interest in the multiplicity of techniques and supports for aesthetic expression influenced my artistic practice. The voyages to the Amazon Rainforest have informed several series of paintings created while living among the Yanomami. The support used is roughly woven canvas prepared with acrylic medium then textured with a mixture of sand from the river bank. This supple canvas is then rolled and transported on expeditions into the forest. They are then painted using a mixture of acrylic colors and Achiote and Genipap, the vegetal pigments used by the Yanomami for their ritual body paintings and on practical and shamanic implements. 

My concern for the ongoing devastation of the Amazon Rainforest has inspired my films and installation projects.

“The Yanomami shamans who fight the xawara epidemic see the disease’s image appear in the form of strips of scarlet fabric. The xawara epidemic is approaching and its smoke is glowing red! It is making the sky become ghost and is devouring all the human beings in its path! It must be driven away!” – Davi Kopenawa, Yanomami spokesman, Roraima, Brazil, from his book ” The Falling Sky ” – 2013.

Shamans in the Alto Orinoco region of Amazonas, Venezuela, described – oru a wakëxi – the gold smoke to me in these terms decades before I read Davi’s words. Dreaming in my hammock in the Yanomami shabono, I saw the totemic sculpture I would later create when I returned to Paris. In another dream, I saw my sculpture burning.

I planned to burn a sculpture publicly in 2003 but didn’t find a site for creating a burning sculpture performance until 2005. I’ve burned seven since. You can see photos of them all in “performance” and films of the sculptures burning interspersed with art projects and instants of life with Yanomami communities in “films” on my website. Now, sculptures are “burning” permanently in the gallery through the use of lights and colors accompanied by the recorded chants of Yanomami shamans.

These burning sculptures symbolize the degradation of nature and the annihilation of indigenous cultures that depend on the forest for their survival. In the 1980s, 20 percent of the Yanomami died in only seven years after gold miners invaded their land, ravaging communities from diseases like measles. Gold miners are now propagating coronavirus among Yanomami communities in Brazil and Venezuela.