A new art show, Coastal Perspectives, at the Station House explores the theme of water through the creativity of Bella Coola Valley artists Theresa Bagshaw, Kathleen Booth and Ernest Hall.
“There are fish, bears, otters, the rainforest and lots of water,” Hall said during the opening reception. “I think every piece involves water.”
Hall incorporates traditional native designs in some of his pieces and said he does it because First Nations are part of the landscape.
“We’re the refugees,” he suggested.
“All of the non-native people have come to the valley to escape something, but the Nuxalk have been here since creation. They are part of the landscape the way the bears and fish are.”
There is an argument that non-native incorporation of native art is expropriation, however, Hall argued artists often “steal” from the Italians, Greeks, Romans and French.
“Art is a universal expression and to exclude the right to incorporate native art into my art is denying the artistic experience.”
Pointing to a piece titled Sky to Sea — a clay vase featuring an descending eagle and a fishing salmon — Hall said he’s happy with the piece.
He first started incorporating aboriginal images about 20 years ago at a time when it was politically incorrect and admits he was self-conscious.
He’s not now.
Lifting up a clay platter with a native designed sockeye titled Sockeye Blues, he described it as whimsical and fun. There’s not enough whimsy out there, he chuckled.
One of his pieces titled Bella Coola Just Getting By is more political.
It features a tree root ripped out of the environment and the ends of it are ragged.
The wood is smooth and cultivated by the weather and elements, but it’s been torn out, he emphasized.
“There are two raku bears who are un-customarily walking away from the centre of the piece. Two raku salmon are also swimming away and leaving the scene.”
He said he didn’t have a little plastic ferry boat to place on the wood, but hoped the viewer gets his drift that folks in Bella Coola are barely surviving.
Booth, who moved to the valley from Winnipeg in 2011, has created paintings sharing the vibrancy of the nature she sees around her.
Her paintings employ a use of hues that is bold and bright.
Bagshaw, originally from Vancouver, has called the Bella Coola Valley home since 1993.
While she wasn’t at the show’s opening, her presence was felt through her paintings and clay, fitting her artist statement’s suggestion that “the natural environment nurtures her creative abilities and calls for diversity in her artistic expression.”
The show remains in the gallery for the rest of September.