The autumn equinox was set ablaze with Homer’s annual burning basket on Sept. 15. The mythical tale all began in response to a project by artist and naturalist, Mavis Muller.
In 2004, Muller received a grant from the Alaska State Council on the Arts to travel to Nevada and participate with a team of artists under the direction of artist/architect David Best. Together, the team built a massive, interactive, impermanent, fire-art installation for Burning Man.
“David introduced me to the significance of community-based interactive art as a civic function,” Muller explained. “He told me to not compromise artistic integrity, even if the work is impermanent. He taught me that how you do anything is how you do everything. And I learned how creativity and imagination assist in the process of letting go.”
Muller returned to Homer and shortly after created her first Burning Basket with spiritual people from the local community. Since then, she’s facilitated 26 basket burnings in Alaska, Oregon, California, Hawaii (Big Island, Maui, Molokai), New Mexico/Mexico border and in Spain.
Each collaborative sculpture is a community-supported, volunteer-dependent, weather-affected labor of art and love.
Taking part in making the art, “symbolizes the creative process,” said Muller. It’s about transformation and having a way to express yourself.
“It’s not about the number in attendance, it’s about the quality of the experience,” said Muller.
Homer local Dave Eckwert said that the event “seems like a real Homer kind of deal and that it is a special thing Mavis provides for us to get involved in.”
The baskets are made from natural materials, such as wild grass, stinging nettles, and fireweed, alder berries, sticks of alder, birch and spruce, which were consciously gathered from the local environment. In some ways the making of the basket is a way to honor the local plants that make our environment what it is.
People come from all over Alaska to attend and help build the basket. Hannah Apricot came all the way from Santa Barbara, Calif., to assist Mavis in the project this year. She said, “It is a real special thing to meet all the people from the community and meet different generations that have been coming to the event for the last decade.”
Local fire spinners enticed the children of Homer with their methodical rhythmic moves, while sky lanterns floated above at the community event. Each fire spinner was unique in their own signature of spinning, just like each one of Muller’s creative baskets.
Each basket is a different theme and meant to be a short-lived community bonder. This year’s Burning Basket is called “Enjoy.” The building took place last week and was ignited at sunset Sept. 15. “It was titled ‘Enjoy’ because it is all we have in the present moment. Things can change in a moment and now is your opportunity to enjoy and feel that this art belongs to everyone,” said Muller.
The basket belongs to the community. All are invited to interact with it by way of decorating the outside, and by tucking scrolls of written sentiments into the basket.
“It’s a way for the community to come together to release positive intentions and personal sentiments to release sorrow, burdens and shortcomings,” said Muller.
“Each individual is having their own individual experience,” Muller said.
At sundown, a torch was lit and the basket was burned.
The fate of “Enjoy” is a fiery conclusion as the many positive, heartfelt messages inside and out are respectfully released in sparks, flames and the addition of fireworks inside this year’s basket. This impermanent art stays in our memories as we experience the fall 2013 autumnal equinox.
Pre-burn Ceremony Video
Basket Burning Video
Fire-Dancers at the Burning Basket