Salmon and Turtle
Sponsored by Kootenay Gallery of Art
“With the proposed reintroduction of salmon into the Upper Columbia River, this sculpture represents the spawning salmon returning to Turtle Island. The images are suggested by indigenous petroglyphs from both interior and coastal sites.”
Painter and sculptor David Sidley draws most of his inspiration for his expressive works from longstanding pictographs (ancient rock paintings) and petroglyphs (ancient rock carvings).
Sidley feels the various native cultural and religious beliefs portrayed in drawings or carvings were a key to their survival pre-Caucasian contact. “They lived in continual interaction with nature and co-existed harmoniously in that environment, not in spite of it.” He elaborates further, passionately enamoured with a subject he is familiar with from anthropological studies at university and years of experience and knowledge gathering.
“Native North Americans gained an intimate spiritual knowledge of wildlife and its environment because of their dependence on it for survival. Through my work, I am trying to recapture that spiritual knowledge.”
He has done so admirably with the sculpture he displays in this year’s Sculpturewalk. Based on site visitations and representations found at both coastal and local pictographs, Salmon and Turtle reflects Sidley’s passion and skill. He chose this particular piece for a couple of reasons. The proposed re-introduction of salmon to their traditional environment in the Upper Columbia River is a positive concrete step; metaphorically, Turtle Island represents the bonding of sky, water and earth (and is sometimes the name given the continent) in indigenous oral storytelling.
Using Category 8 weathering steel – used for building bridges – Sidley’s salmon is mounted contrastingly above the prone turtle, symbolizing Mother Turtle carrying the land and it’s inhabitants on her back. The geometric difference, one in profile, the other flat, is arresting. Connected by a slender rod, both figures are his collective interpretation of ancient images that have survived for centuries. They are engagingly vivid as a sculpture; Sidley’s conceptualization and realization of two culturally significant, sacred animals for the area’s original inhabitants is a winning one.