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'Tested by Fire' : Works by Tim Carl opens a new series at the Napa Valley Museum

'Tested by Fire' : Works by Tim Carl opens a new series at the Napa Valley Museum


Napa Valley photojournalist Tim Carl has captured the beauty and devastation of the wine country wildfires for several years, creating vivid portraits of communities under siege.

Now, the Napa Valley Museum has created a collection of Carl’s works to launch “Real/Time: Art of the Moment,” a new series of community-focused virtual exhibitions that will be viewable on the museum website.

“Tested by Fire, photographs and videos of Napa and Sonoma County wildfires by Napa Valley photographer Tim Carl” opened on Thursday, Sept. 24 and runs through March 29, 2021. With the sponsorship of Bank of America, the exhibition is free to the public.

“An exhibition on the wildfires – one of the topics on everyone’s mind at the moment—as captured in Tim Carl’s exceptionally vivid images and videos, seemed the perfect way to launch the series,” said museum director Laura Rafaty. “Our friends at Bank of America were incredibly generous in quickly responding to support the idea. We hope that this look at wildfires from 2017 to present will remind us of the resiliency of the valley, and of the transitory beauty of all that surrounds us.”

“Most of our time is spent rushing from this to that in a perpetual — often frantic — search for survival, comfort and meaning without stopping to witness the wonders around us. Photography slows down the rapid pace of life to a standstill, allowing us the opportunity to witness the beauty and awe-inspiring world at our feet,” said Carl, a Napa Valley native who traces his California grape-growing roots back to the mid-1800s.

His many careers have included being co-founder and former CEO of Knights Bridge Winery, a professional chef, freelance photographer and journalist, FAA-licensed drone operator, meditation and fitness instructor, scuba instructor, business consultant at McKinsey and Co., and Ph.D. scientist with a fellowship at Harvard. He is also a veteran of the U.S. Navy, been a construction site manager and been involved in planting/managing numerous vineyards. He works now as a photographer/journalist, often focusing on the human stories found within Northern California’s wine and food industries. He said he will donate his honorarium from this exhibition to climate change charities.

“Each photo I take attempts to tell a story,” he said. “Often those stories are about our relationship with nature, and nowhere do they resonate more than through the near-annual fires that occur in and around California’s wine country. The enormous toll on lives and livelihoods of these ferocious infernos are often overshadowed by the courage, self-sacrifice, unity and resolute resiliency of the communities affected.”

“Beyond the human inspiration brought about by wildfires, nature’s miraculous ability to rebound after what is often mind-numbing devastation also speaks to our shared connectedness, responsibility and the future that is so intimately linked to the health of our environment. The most evocative and powerful photos do not preach or try to sell anything. They allow the viewer time to ponder what matters most.”

“(Carl’s) photographs and videos are a testament to the awesome power of nature to destroy, and bear witness to the enduring will of our communities to survive and rebuild, a visual essay on the resilience of the human spirit tested by fire,” said Rafaty. “The exhibition includes scores of images, spans wildfires from 2017 to the current day from Sonoma to Napa counties, encompassing images and video of the fires, first responders, and the aftermath.”

“The museum is excited to launch a series of exhibitions that are focused on our community and curated in real-time, many showcasing the work of exceptional local artists,” Rafaty said. “The strong response to our virtual ‘Lucy Liu’ 3D exhibition and to our student show made it clear that fans of museums and of the visual arts will embrace our virtual exhibitions, even while our physical galleries are closed. While these virtual exhibits are not intended to replace the in-person experience of visiting our Museum, they do allow us to reach a much broader audience of visitors all over the world – indeed many of our virtual visitors have been from Asia and other distant places.”

The virtual gallery series Real/Time: Art of the Moment will encompass exhibitions portraying the community and the world, curated as events are happening. The next planned installment is an exploration of the effects of COVID-19 on the Napa Valley, and will be a community-curated exhibition consisting of artwork and images submitted by Napa Valley residents and visitors. More about this series will be posted on the museum’s website at

Visitors to the virtual exhibit are encouraged to support the museum, which is closed due to COVID-19 restrictions, through membership and donations. The museum has not currently announced a reopening date for the physical galleries, but plans to reopen continuing with the Lucy Liu exhibition in the Main Gallery, and the Yates Foundation exhibit in the Spotlight Gallery, before the end of 2020.

“The arts play a role in helping communities address current events and make connections through common experiences,” said Amy Loflin, senior vice president, local market manager for Bank of America. “Our partnership with the Napa Valley Museum Yountville to bring this exhibition to the public at no cost is an important demonstration of our commitment to the Napa Valley, and creating access to the arts. We commend the museum for continuing a dialogue around the role of art, particularly given all of the current challenges faced by art institutions worldwide.”

The Bank of America art program also includes sponsorships, and grants to arts organizations for arts education and the preservation of cultural treasures. The Napa Valley Museum Yountville was selected as a participant in the Bank’s “Museums on Us” program, offering free admission to cardholders during the first full weekend of every month, and presented: “Modern Women/Modern Vision: Works from the Bank of America Collection” on loan through the Bank’s “Art in Our Communities” program from November 2019 through January 2020.

Also currently on virtual exhibition: a 3D Virtual Tour of its popular Main Gallery exhibition: “Lucy Liu: One Of These Things Is Not Like The Others.” A fundraiser for the museum’s reopening, this exhibition can be viewed by making a donation in any amount at:

The museum is also offering a free virtual tour of its annual student-curated exhibition: “Not From Around Here,” at

Watch now: The first seven hours of the Hennessey Fire

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Features Editor

Sasha Paulsen has been features editor at the Napa Valley Register since 1999. A graduate of Napa High School, she studied English at UC Berkeley and St. Mary's College and earned a Masters in Journalism from the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism.

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