Fish, in particular, salmon, are important to Falkland artist, hunter and fly tyer Lottie Kozak.
The self-taught artist and former logger has wood carvings of salmon predominantly displayed in her studio off Highway 97, along with drawings, bone, wood, horn and stone carvings, beadwork and necklaces.
Soon, Kozak says, she’ll have to create her fish work from memory as she’s concerned about the dwindling fish stock numbers in the region.
“Logging is causing it,” said Kozak, who won’t give her age but says she’s been around the North Okanagan “more than 58 years.”
Kozak has her work on display at the Salmon Arm Art Gallery through until Aug. 4, part of an exhibition called Slxlxaya: Stories of the Secwepemc Culture, an exhibition featuring art and audio stories by Indigenous artists and storytellers. Kozak will be on hand Thursday to share her story (part of the exhibition’s Coffee Break and Artist Talk, which also goes July 19, both starting at 2 p.m.).
She talks about neighbouring Bolean Creek, where she once walked and fished, which flows into the Salmon River. Now, she says, there’s not enough water in either body of water to do that.
“Salmon River used to be full of salmon. Now it’s nothing. Nothing,” she said. “You might see one salmon. It’s not just logging. Farmers draw the water out for irrigation. There’s just a little trickle of water in that river.”
Kozak says she’s been over to the Adams River in the Shuswap the last five years, the one with the legendary salmon run every fall. Kozak said there’s “hardly any salmon” there anymore.
“One year was pretty good, some years there’s hardly any,” she said. “I can tell going there and looking at the salmon. Last year, and the year before, there was hardly anything. On the Salmon River, years before, you couldn’t walk across the river without hitting a fish.
Kozak is one of the artists and storytellers partnering that makes up the current display in Salmon Arm.
Ten emerging and mid-career Indigenous artists, including three youth artists, created work that is a mix of contemporary and traditional styles. It visually tells stories in new ways.