Mary Thomas, Walk Along the Birch Trail, 2024, photography, birchbark.


Salmon Arm Arts Centre, Salmon Arm, BC - To June 22

by Michael Turner

Taking its title from the Secwépemctsin word for “tree,” Tsrep is a group exhibition that addresses the effects of colonization, unsustainable land development, and the climate crisis on the ancestral and unceded territories of the Secwépemc people. Salmon Arm’s art gallery, writes curator Tracey Kutschker at the opening of the exhibition catalogue, “is situated on land that was once a forest of fir trees, not far from the lakeshore that would have been thick with tule and surrounded by sxwesmélip, the sxúsem berry bush that drew gatherers from all over the region since time immemorial.”

Kutschker notes that when seeking solutions to the climate crisis, we would do well to look at past (pre-contact) ecosystems and listen to those who have had past ways handed down to them. To make an exhibition in celebration of this past and the knowledge it holds, Kutschker invited artists to explore a single species of tree or shrub that existed prior to contact and draw attention to the conditions that allowed for its displacement.

Exhibition highlights include two works focused on the birch tree. In Mary Thomas’ Walk Along the Birch Trail (2024), a backing field of unrolled birchbark carries a series of vertical photographs of birch trees taken at ground level, an open sky between them and their birchbark support. Are these trees dying, or simply wintering? Clea Roddick’s Paper Birch Scrolls (2024) also hang vertically, but in this instance in support of the poems and charcoal rubbings that fall from them. Roddick’s scroll works were inspired by two locations: a stand of birches near the artist’s home and an ancient birch that survived the 2021 Queest Mountain forest fire.


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