Birds of Paradise offer peace to still-reeling Chico


Mother and daughter mourning their loved ones. Photo credit: Melissa Joseph

Artists and members of Butte County gathered Saturday night to remember loved ones lost in the Camp Fire.

Lively music played throughout the walls of the Chico Art Center as the Trinity Accordion Group performed in the center of the gallery. A reception for Dia de los Muertos commenced, showcasing an altar and art exhibit that included dozens of works from local artists and a special installation piece to commemorate each person lost in the Camp Fire.

The installation was created by Janice Hofmann and Devin Peterson, who were both directly affected by the fire. The sculpture installation depicts 85 clay birds perched on the steel branches of trees. Hofmann created the birds, giving special care to the detail and sentiment of each clay piece and taking into account the bird’s colors and characteristics.

To Hofmann, the birds represented every life taken by the Camp Fire and were each accompanied by a specific person’s obituary and personal knickknacks hidden within. Hofmann was inspired to create the piece when she took her son to Paradise for the first time since the fire.

“Driving my son to see his childhood home and school burnt to ashes weighed heavily on me. I had to do something to process all of the emotional pain,” Hofmann said.

Dia De Los Muertos artwork. Photo credit: Melissa Joseph

After visiting the remnants of Paradise, Hofmann created each clay bird, as the obituaries were released in the papers. As her pieces gained awareness, Hofmann realized the need for a custom stage.

Hofmann then contacted Devin Peterson, a steel worker who she was previous business neighbors with. Petersen agreed to collaborate with Hofmann and worked tirelessly to create a proper platform for the birds.

Just five days before the reception, Hofmann and Peterson were able to combine their works and create the exceptional installation now on display at the Chico Art Center. Visitors and survivors all admired the piece with profound appreciation for the respect and craftsmanship of both artists.

To view the installation in person, the Chico Art Center will be showcasing the exhibit from Nov. 1-22.

Melissa Joseph can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter @melisstweetz.