Klara Maisch and Debbie Clarke Moderow
Solace of Circles I
Solace of Circles II
Solace of Circles III
Solace of Circles IV
Solace of Circles V
Solace of Circles
In December 2021, painter Klara Maisch and writer Debbie Clarke Moderow spoke on the phone for the first time. Familiar with one another through monthly ITOC Zoom presentations, they talked about their shared interests in the boreal forest: seasonal shifts, wildfire succession, and nutrient cycling in layers of soil. By the end of that first conversation, they agreed to be pen pals of sorts. Debbie’s words and Klara’s paintings would be the language of a spontaneous call and response.
Debbie began by writing about walking a forested trail. Klara responded with several images suggesting layers of time. That simple beginning sparked a dialogue that revealed each woman’s reckoning with change. Though they still had not met in person, Klara and Debbie discovered they shared lifestyles centered around wilderness—and that each had suffered the loss of a friend whose spirit continued to be woven into the mysterious boreal landscape they call home. Heartened by their unfolding conversation, Debbie and Klara met in person in March. They skied together, followed the tracks of an ermine, and delighted in refining Solace of Circles.
Debbie and Klara’s primary inspiration for this collaboration came from one another. Consultations with scientists Becky Hewitt, Jill Johnstone, and Teresa Hollingsworth enhanced their understanding of cycles in the boreal ecosystem. Becky Hewitt furthered their appreciation of permafrost’s thaw front, where frozen microbes from ages past return to life, with far-reaching implications that span the threshold between earth and air.
Solace of Circles is presented on a small scale, a reflection of Debbie and Klara’s intimate and spontaneous conversation. They are grateful to painter Kes Woodward and writer Peggy Shumaker for their collaborative work Sparks, in its powerful call and response. Solace of Circles is a conversation between an artist and a writer, heightened by the voices of friends Mary Kaye Denkewalter (1953-2021) and Marybeth Wikander (1990-2020).
Klara Maisch documents landscape change in oil paintings created on location. Klara travels to remote regions of Alaska to paint outside, where direct experiences with the processes that shape a landscape inform the visual dynamics in her work. She is currently painting places transformed by wildfires, glacier retreat, permafrost thaw, and advancing treeline. Klara’s paintings have been featured in exhibitions throughout Alaska, California, Washington, and Hawaii. She was honored to receive support from the Alaska State Council on the Arts and The Puffin Foundation for her work with In A Time of Change: Boreal Forest Stories.
Debbie Clarke Moderow
Debbie Clarke Moderow writes creative nonfiction. Her memoir, Fast Into the Night: A Woman, Her Dogs, and Their Journey North on the Iditarod Trail, was awarded the 2016 National Outdoor Book Award in Outdoor Literature and the 2017 Willa Award in Creative Nonfiction. She was honored to participate in ITOC: Microbial Worlds, and to collaborate with painter Klara Maisch in ITOC: Boreal Forest Stories.
Debbie earned a BA from Princeton University (1977) and an MFA from Pacific Lutheran University (2013). Her ongoing writing explores her lifelong relationship to wilderness landscapes in the context of change, both personal and global.