Student artist donates time and art to remember homes lost to the creek fire

On Sept. 4, 2020, the Creek Fire broke out near Shaver Lake and Sierra National Park. It would burn 379,895 acres of land with 103 homes lost in the blaze. Artist Kylee “Ky” Conriquez brings out empathy in her art with the Creek Fire project completed on April 15 with 23 homes painted and donated to people whose homes were lost. Here she combines her love of community, nature and art. 

Conriquez fell in love with the area as she surveyed the Sierra National Park. This admiration is evoked in the tribute paintings she has created and donated to those who had lost their homes.

These paintings are a tangible reminder of what the fire devoured away. Coriquez wanted to give back to the community that had lost their homes after her husband was bringing supplies back and forth to the area.

“I was back at school. I was like ‘I basically feel like I’m not doing anything. What can I do to help?’ Because I felt terrible for these people losing their homes,” Conriquez said.

“Of course Ky is doing that because she is a giving person of her time. She is also an empathetic person and that happens in her hometown where her family is,” Gina Tuzzi, an art professor at Humboldt State University said. 

“I think it’s such a beautiful gesture in a time that has been so challenging on multiple levels and California through rough and wild fires. It’s worth celebrating and very significant.”

“She’s an amazing artist with the work that she has typically done. She would draw like birds and native species to the Sierra,” Sara Lane Barnett, friend of Conriquez and photographer, said.  “She is incredibly creative, a wonderful artist, and multifaceted in many ways.”

Prior to becoming a studio art major, Conriquez had been devoted to her other path which is wildlife and nature. She used this love to head into college and earn an Associate’s in Forestry and Natural Resources. 
When she came to HSU, however, one of the classes in her major was environmental graphic design which ignited her passion for art once more.

“I was scared to go down that path because everyone says ‘Oh, you’re going to be a starving artist,’ but there’s actually a lot more work in art than you realize,” Conriquez said.

This admiration stemmed from her childhood fascination with nature. Conriquez fell in love with the trees in her backyard, the birds that would come by and insects she would catch and release. Even in the car, she would draw the world she passed by.

“My brother and my sister would be playing their Game Boys and I’d be drawing what I saw out the window,” Corniquez said.

Outside of nature would come the work of childhood illustrators, such as Mary Blair. 

“Her use of color was extremely intensely intriguing. I feel that it played a role in my art seeing movies,” Conriquez said. “Just seeing her work everywhere really inspired me to look for color stories in my life and pull from that.”

Blair is known for her colorful works in her illustrations and from her concept art for classic Disney animated productions ranging from “Cinderella” to “Peter Pan.” 

Another inspiration is the works of Hayao Miyazaki, director of films such as “Kiki’s Delivery Service” and  “Spirited Away.”

“Miyazaki I would say is more the illustrative side. Both Miyazaki and Blair have in a way similar ideals with portraying nature and intertwine him in my work,” Conriquez said of her inspirations.


These inspirations serve her art done in blissful vibrant watercolors, both on the canvas and digitally. Pieces outside of the project include portraits of wildlife and mixed media collages that create a window into how she expresses herself. 

There’s a beautiful chaos in the vibrancy told in a lush vivid valley of variety that adds to her wonderment and view of the world, even showing a glimpse into her mental health.

“I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety my whole life. I was diagnosed as a child and it is something I’ve coped with in my life,” Conriquez said.

She has used the pandemic to regulate herself despite missing interactions with fellow artists and professors.

Conriquez’s art is an extension of her long journey that is still continuing. With her work, she hopes that the art gives something back to those who come across it.

“I hope to somehow bring the viewer back to a time in their life where they felt intense happiness,” Conriquez said. “My work is so dynamic and has layers of emotion and initially I want the first layer to be comfortable. As a person who has suffered from depression and anxiety, I know how important those feelings are when they exist in your life.”

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