Nancarrow has a background as artist—she moved to Alaska in 1964 with a degree in art education—and a biologist—she is close to earning her master’s degree in botany. She also has a great deal of experience turning to nature for inspiration: Her husband, William Nancarrow, was Denali National Park’s first naturalist and is considered by some to be a “Denali-area legend,” according to Frank Norris, author of “Crown Jewel of the North: An Administrative History of Denali National Park and Preserve.” Nancarrow and her husband have spent much of their married life observing changes in the park area—a tundra pond’s transition into a meadow, decreasing number of moose near their home in the park, changes in temperature patterns and snowfall.
Nancarrow has participated in previous “In a Time of Change” events, and her involvement in the network has altered the focus of her work.
“Now I want to tell viewers more about the subject I am depicting,” she said. “I’m concentrating on finding ways to express underlying natural changes that are occurring, often ones that scientists are researching.”
Driving back and forth between her home in Denali National Park and Fairbanks, where she gets most of her groceries, Nancarrow has had plenty of opportunity to witness and document the changes fire can bring to a landscape.
“Year after year I watch what happens with succession, and I’ve wanted for some time to do something with these images and ideas,” she said of her work related to fire. “I feel like I am just barely getting started. I could spend a whole lifetime on this subject and images.”
Her goal for “The Art of Fire” pieces is to incorporate more meaning and substance, rather than just a “typical Alaska landscape,” she said. While an untrained eye may miss the deeper meaning of that scientific substance, it’s enough for her to know it is there.
“A scientist may see it and say, ‘Hey, I know about what is going on there,’ and recognize that aspect. I think that’s fascinating,” she said. “I don’t know that I’m successful in that yet but it’s my goal to incorporate that deeper representation in my work.”