Imagine the world without free-flowing rivers, wild salmon or the 175 million year old great white sturgeon, North America’s largest freshwater fish.
I am currently working on a collection of handmade paper relief sculptures that expand the scope of my recent body of work 38 Minus: The Idaho Fish Project. This work documents native fish species of the Pacific Northwest and Alaska including the threatened or endangered Chinook salmon, steelhead, bull trout, sockeye salmon and white sturgeon. Plant fiber, minerals and other materials collected from habitat where the fish are found are incorporated into many of the pieces.
Using art to present the familiar in a new way, the fish, stripped down to essential form, represent a healthy river ecosystem. Health, defined as “a flourishing condition and well-being,” is a concept grounded in science yet easily understood by the public, just as a fish is something everyone has experience with.
I have worked as a wilderness guide and outfitter for over thirty-five years, observing firsthand the rapid and sometimes dramatic changes occurring in our physical environment. I have had the opportunity to compare Alaska’s healthy ecosystem with the increasingly sterile rivers in the Pacific Northwest.
Earth’s ecosystems evolved over eons, yet just a century’s worth of pressure from human activity has disrupted this delicate balance.
By focusing on the native fish as a barometer for river health, my hope is that this work will produce consideration for environmental sustainability, help bring awareness of ecological concerns and spark conversations about maintaining and/or rebuilding our natural resources for everyone and everything with a current or future vested interest.