Embracing their heritage

Exhibition: The work of two First Nations artists will be on display at the Salmon Arm Art Gallery in April

Making waves: Artist Aaron Leon captures movement by shooting several frames and isolating colours.

Making waves: Artist Aaron Leon captures movement by shooting several frames and isolating colours.

The work of two First Nations artists will be on display at the Salmon Arm  Art Gallery in April.

Splatsin artist Aaron Leon presents two photography series Altered Landscapes and Objects of Indian-ness.

With a masters in fine arts from Montreal’s Concordia University, Leon has been taking photos for seven years and says the process he uses to create his art is slow and, to him, meditative.

“I just really like the process of going out into nature,” he says, noting the quiet and unique sounds of the natural world are part of his upbringing.

Leon uses a process that exposes red, green and blue channels of light, and one negative can take from 30 minutes to an hour of work.

In his Altered Landscapes series, Leon uses a method that captures subtle movement over several frames and reveals that movement through colour isolation.

Leon says  Objects of “Indian-ness,” exposes the commodification of indian stereotypes that still exist. The artist has worked with Runaway Moon Theatre on production, photography and new media projects. He works at Splatsin Tsn7aksaltn teaching and helping to document and record the rich language and culture of his people.

Also featured is an aerial installation of artist Lottie Kozak’s wood-carved birds.

Born and raised in the mountains of the Upper Nicola, Kozak never had the opportunity to go to school, instead helping to raise 2,500 head of sheep on the family ranch.

One of her uncles gave Kozak gnarly limbs and taught her how to carve little wooden horses. Although her uncle died  when Kozak was very young, she continued to carve throughout her years on the ranch.

She spent a lot of time on the back of her horse, and would carve all the animals she saw in her daily rides.

“Sometimes she would leave her carvings on the limbs of branches as she passed by them,” says art gallery curator Tracey Kutschker.

“She did this in secret, since her family told her that such activity was a waste of time.”

When she was 18, her parents sold the ranch, leaving Kozak on her own. And, with her family’s anti-art message still reverberating, Kozak did not carve for many years.

But in her fourties, she wed a supportive man who bought her tools and encouraged her to rediscover her skills.

Now a resident of Falkland, Kozak creates art with a variety of media, including leather, beading and fly-tying.

“She is Métis from her mother’s Haida heritage, and finds her creative energy flows from an unseen source – something within her soul,” says Kutschker.

The exhibition opens at 7 p.m. Friday, April 1 with live music and refreshments, and continues until April 30.