Exhibitions explore Asian Settlement in the Kootenays

Exhibitions explore Asian Settlement in the Kootenays

The Kootenay Gallery of Art in Castlegar opens its 2017 Exhibition Schedule with two shows that explore migration and settlement through the perspective of East Asian Canadian artists who reference the West Kootenays. Plant Memory and High Muck a Muck both open March 3 at 7 p.m. and run until April 15.

Plant Memory is a collection of new paintings by Silverton artist Tsuneko Kokubo, inspired by the artist’s own family history. Kokubo’s family spent time in the internment camps in the Slocan Valley. The plants in her mother’s garden originated from BC Coastal communities and before that from Japan. This realization led to an exploration of the connection between the origins of plants and the movement of immigrants as they came from Europe to eventually settle in the Kootenays. The paintings not only depict images of plants but also reference what historical or cultural story they may tell.

In these paintings I am exploring some edible and medicinal plants as repositories of history and culture (living archives) in the Columbia Basin, but I am not a historian or a botanist,” Kokubo said. “I am simply a gardener who also loves to paint. My unsystematic explorations of this subject are manifested through art - often inspired by my own garden, or by the stories of local Kootenay folk. I talked with many people in the area, but most specific memories of how plants or seeds actually arrived in this area are lost in the mists of time.”

High Muck a Muck: Playing Chinese returns to the Kootenays, where it premiered at the Oxygen Art Centre in 2013. This interactive media installation explores the theme of Chinese immigration to British Columbia, both historical and contemporary and the tensions that exist between them. The exhibition is largely directed by the viewers who participate in an historical Chinese lottery game resulting in the projection of a fortune. The random nature of the fortune reflects the uncertainties faced by new immigrants and often echo the tradition of Chinese proverbs and fortune telling. Directed by long-term Kootenay resident Nicola Harwood, participating artists in the project include former Nelson resident Fred Wah, Jin Zhang, Thomas Loh, Bessie Wapp, Tomoyo Ihaya, Phillip Djwa, Hiromoto Ida, Patrice Leung and Harwood herself.

The exhibitions will open on March 3 at 7 p.m. at the Kootenay Gallery of Art. They are free to attend and everyone is welcome. Paul Gibbons, partner of Tsuneko Kokubo, will be on hand to play ambient music at the opening. There will be opportunities to hear artists speak about the exhibitions. The Kootenay Gallery of Art is located next to the Doukhobor Discovery Centre, across from the Wests Kootenay Regional Airport If you are unable to attend the opening, the Gallery is open from Tuesday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is by donation and members are free.