Elsa Muñoz writes, “Beyond any particular message in my work, I'm always fundamentally seeking to call upon and transmute my earliest encounters with the natural world--imaginary encounters which filled me with wonder and longing.”
As with all of Elsa’s work, the impetus for the Controlled Burn series begins with childhood. Before she learned about climate change and terms like ecopsychology and somatic ecology, her interest began with a lived experience that changed her. At eight years old, she first encountered a forest on a school field trip where she was taken to see the effects of a controlled burn. She learned that in forestry, prescriptive fire is actually an agent for health, as it removes invasive species and returns nutrients back to the soil in order to renew it. It would be a slow process for things to bloom again, but the health of the forest required the cyclical burning. Young Elsa was in awe of the process.
As an adult, an interest in mental health has led her to learn many terms relating to trauma and resilience, but the wordless mental image of a burnt forest ground - and the promise it conceals just below the ash - remains the most potent. As a painter, she is primarily interested in making images that contribute to the effort of re-enchantment with nature as a first step towards a deeper relationship with the more-than-human world. At the heart of this series is the desire to use the metaphor of a controlled burn to help build hope and resilience in times of uncertainty.
Elsa Muñoz is a Mexican-American artist born and raised on the South Side of Chicago. She credits her interest in both nature and healing to her experiences growing up in an underserved and often unsafe community with little access to green spaces. Having to spend most of her childhood indoors led to the cultivation of a rich inner world in which she was able to find beauty and sanctuary. Elsa received her BFA in oil painting from the American Academy of Art in 2006. She's since had eight solo shows including one at the National Museum of Mexican Art and at the Union League Club of Chicago, along with several group shows throughout the United States. She was recently awarded the Helen and Tim Meier Foundation For The Arts Achievement Award). Notable collections include the National Museum of Mexican Art, North Park University, and the private collection of Martin Castro, Chairman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights under President Barack Obama.