A new exhibition at the Smithers Art Gallery is aiming to spark conversations around the importance of fish to the local community.
Sarah Zimmerman from Terrace opened her show on Friday, March 6 and turned the gallery into an underwater world with different works of salmon and oolichan.
“I come from Alberta, salmon came in a can,” she says. “It wasn’t something that I liked to eat and wasn’t part of my regular diet. I moved to Terrace 20 years ago. I was only supposed to be here for six months. I remember everyone ate salmon and I had to learn to like it. Over the years it has become a staple.
“It is one of those things that bring all cultures and backgrounds together and it is so integral to the food and ceremonies that happen in the Northwest. I really liked being able to explore the connection of fish, people, culture and art.”
For most of her pieces, she uses a twist on an old Japanese art of fish printing with a gel transfer technique. She transferred prints of oolichan and salmon that were caught locally and transferred the prints to wooden canvases.
Also on display near the entrance of the art gallery is an installation piece representing an oolichan drying rack. She collaborated with Gitxsan Nisga’a artist Jaimie Davis to make it.
It has two birch poles with woven cedar hanging between them with dozens of wooden oolichan cut-outs with a print on one side and silver leaf on the other hanging from it.
Davis wove 25 feet of cedar bark for the installation.
“It was really exciting for me and for her to come together,” Zimmerman says. “I’m a settler and she’s Indigenous, we both have different world views, but it was a very interesting project for us to work on together.”
She also has a series on display called Liquid Gold.
“It is a series of block prints, two-toned block prints. The bottom is gold and they are in the shape of an oolichan. The block print on top was carved by myself and Stó:lo artist Amanda Hugon who [is] based out of Terrace and a graduate of the Freda Diesing School of Northwest Coast Art.”
One of the pieces has a number of repeating images in gold and black but one fish is just black.
“It is important to note that the oolichan fishery is threatened,” Zimmerman says. “It is a precious resource. The whole notion that is called liquid gold indicates that it is really important as a food and ceremony to Indigenous fisheries. So having one without gold serves as a reminder that the harvest isn’t as plentiful as it once was and be mindful of that.”
This is the third time the show has been shown. It started in Terrace and then went to Wells.
The exhibition runs until April 4.
Gallery Hours are Tuesday through Friday 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturdays 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.