Salmon Stories, Set 1: Dirge

March 9 – April 6, 2006

Legacy Maltwood (at Mearns Centre – McPherson Library)

Curated by Astri Wright, Professor in the Department of Art History, UVic

This was the first solo exhibition of photographs by Peter Paul Harnisch, a Vancouver-based European-decent Canadian artist. It featured 30 large photographs documenting his expressive response to post-spawned salmon in the same creek on the lower mainland over the last three years. It invesitaged the sacredness of place and spirit through the life cycle of salmon on the West Coast. The exhibition featured a single piece guest-installation by Washington State sculptor Ken Lundemo called “Salmon Woman”.

Harnisch began his photographic career in 1986. After a decade of work in the commercial photography he began to pursue the medium as a vehicle of personal, creative expression. The moment that caused Harnisch to make a conscious shift from commercial work to art was his experience, in fall 2003, of photographing salmon in a Vancouver creek after their run had come to an end. A selection of his photographs of dead salmon from 2003-05 in Scott Creek in Coquitlam BC was featured in the show.

This is the first of two exhibitions from the same team coming to Maltwood Art Gallery and Museum. The title, Dirge, refers to songs sung at funerals, associated with Christian and pre-Christian practices. This exhibit explores the first and last moments of our lives, the act of passing through the veil between the living and the dead, and the public and private spaces these events happen in. The exhibit reflected the funereal aspect of photographing the salmon only after they had spawened and died.

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