Fort Gallery is launching a series of exhibitions that explore the social, cultural, and environmental significance of the Fraser River.
Alysha Creighton, exhibition chair, said the project stemmed from a change currently happening within the gallery.
“We decided to to the Fraser River Project this year because we’re in the midst of a transition as a gallery from the co-op model, where artists pay in to the collective to get an annual exhibition, to an artist run-centre model where artist will not have to pay to exhibit work,” Creighton said.
“It is our hope that this transition is both more sustainable and allows us to exhibit a more diverse group of artists to whom paying for an exhibition would make the gallery inaccessible,” she continued.
Gol Nu Get Mote by Vancouver-based photographer Jeff Downer, is the first of four exhibitions, on now until Feb. 15.
Downer’s project took him on a journey along the length of the Fraser from the Lower Mainland to Boston Bar to document the communities that line its shores.
Signs of decay and the passage of time mar the familiar landmarks in Downer’s photographs.
“I had a friend in Queensborough who couldn’t afford rent in the city, so she was living in a defunct shipping boat moored on the Fraser River,” Downer said of the origins that brought him to the location.
The photographer began snapping pictures of the New Westminster neighbourhood, eventually turning his attention to the historical aspects of the land.
“I had a teacher at Emily Carr who’s since become my mentor. They pointed out that all of my pictures had the Fraser River in them and that maybe I could do something with that,” he continued.
Downer wanted to showcase aspects of the fur trade, gold rush, and first nations with what he called a photographic survey, documenting how everything has changed overtime.
Many of his pictures were taken in 2012, but he managed to convince the Fort Gallery to let him take a few fresh ones to include in the gallery, including several Langley locations.
“I have one of the Church of the Holy Redeemer, but it’s since been renovated; the shingles are falling off in this picture and the steeple is cracked,” Downer noted. “I also panned for gold at the Fort Langley museum, which really are spray painted pebbles, but there’s a picture of that.”
The cryptic exhibition title Gol Nu Get Mote refers to a dilapidated sign that graces the facade of the Gold Nugget Motel in Yale, BC.
The exhibition features 20 of his images, enlarged and wallpapered around the space.
Downer’s work attempts to draw attention to the moments of strangeness and dissonance that arise at the intersection of colonization, industry, frontier mythologies and contemporary tourism.
He hopes people question the legacies that we are leaving in the rapidly developing Fraser River Valley when they see his work.
“The River project is a way of officially signalling this transition and the gallery’s intention to engage critically and thoughtfully with the pressing issues of our time,” Creighton added about the project in general. “The Fraser River of course has profoundly shaped Fort Langley socially, culturally, economically and environmentally. Also, in light of the recent IPCC report we know the impacts of climate change on the river will be profound: Fort Langley is located on a floodplain and the salmon are already facing significant challenges of warming waters, parasites and landslides.”
An opening reception and artist talk will be held Friday, 7 to 9 p.m.
Downer will lead a workshop in alternative DIY photographic print processes at the gallery Feb.9, 12 to 5 p.m.
More information and registration can be found at www.fortgallery.ca.
Fort Gallery is located in Fort Langley at 9048 Glover Rd, and hours are Wednesday to Saturday, 12 to 5 p.m.
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