Kaia Sand embroiders poetry as durational composition. While she embroiders a word or phrase, she composes the next words. She created Air the Fire during an artist residency she shared with Garrick Imatani at the City of Portland Archives and Records Center from 2013-2015, a public art commission through the Regional Arts and Culture Council. Their collaboration resulted in public installations at the North Portland Branch of the Multnomah Public Library and Portland State University Academic & Recreation Center, and participation in group shows at the Blaffer Museum in Houston and University of Santa Barbara, California.
During the residency, they investigated surveillance documents the Portland Police kept on activists in the late 1960s, 1970s, and early 1980s. Thinking about under-exposed photographs in the archives, and how such scant light rendered surveilled faces anonymous, Sand selected materials accordingly: mercerized cotton thread the same color as the linen. By working with tensions between illegibility and legibility, she explored anonymity and exposure, ethical action and courage.