Susan Hayre (b. 1975) grew up on a family ranch in far southwest Texas. A graduate of Texas Christian University and the Hartford Art School at the University of Hartford, Susan’s works are included in the permanent collections of the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, the New Mexico Museum of Art, the Portland Museum of Art, and the University of Texas, Dallas. Her work has been published in PDN, Fraction magazine, American Photography, and Shots magazine. She teaches photography and media arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
In the spring of 2011 a fire consumed a large part of my parents ranch- burning down to the limestone bedrock, destroying fences, killing animals, and finally being extinguished within sight of our home- within days land on which they base their livelihood in Texas was devastated. Querencia is my exploration of the scorched aftermath.
The 2011 outbreak of wildfires in the southwestern US impacted this land dramatically. It was the second time in two years that the land was overtaken by natural forces. In 2009, sections of this ranch, located on the edge of the Chihuahuan desert, were inundated with a 100-year flood that uprooted trees and turned the dry riverbeds of the canyonlands into violent torrents that tore out soil, fences, and even some of the state ranch roads in the region. Querencia, an old Spanish word referring to the place from which one draws ones deepest sense of self, is my document and interpretation of the scorched and flooded remains. Essentially, the work was and is a way to make sense out of what was rendered a visually senseless place. The fire and flood reconstructed the landscape in such a way that I no longer recognized my backyard, so to speak, not to mention the practical fact that my parents cannot use the burned land for years to come. And as that land is such a personal place- as my great-grandfather, grandfather, mother, and I were all born and raised here- it is a living entity, and in an emotional way a physical extension of myself. The destruction to the place was something like looking in the mirror after an accident and not recognizing who was staring back. The photographic encounters of my wanderings allowed a reconstruction of memory, a sort of investigation into the slowly shifting face of the land, and a re-creation of relationship with this desert garden.