Salmon Art Leaps Into Pacific West Coast Imagination

Salmon is king in Vancouver  –in local cuisine and in art.  After a few days wandering in the city or anywhere along the coast of British Columbia, you are bound to stumble across salmon swishing

Salmon mosaics --only part of Mosaic Park's extensive art mosaics near downtown Vancouver. Photo by J. Chong
Salmon mosaics –only part of Mosaic Park’s extensive art mosaics near downtown Vancouver. Photo by J. Chong

through water or jumping up in sculpture, murals or mosaics.  Salmon iconography is in Salish coastal Indian art, outdoor contemporary art and children’s art.

Children's salmon art adorns their school face. Vancouver, BC 2014. Photo by J.Cholng
Children’s salmon art adorns their school fence. Vancouver, BC 2014. Photo by J.Chong

Salmon was and continues to be food sustenance in this part of Canada for several thousand years.  We are entranced by the eternal, annual Pacific Ocean massive migration of  salmon into British Columbia’s inland river waters.  Each year, up to  a million thrashing and jumping salmon, swim hundreds of kilometres from the Pacific to lay their eggs in inland river beds before they die.  This long, exhausting and self-sacrificial marathon run of salmon life in Nature, continues to capture our imagination.

Salmon is celebrated in street pavement art. St. George Rainway art work is dedicated to a long gone salmon stream. Vancouver 2012. Photo by J.Chong
Salmon in permanent street pavement art. St. George Rainway art work is dedicated to a long gone salmon stream. Vancouver 2012. Photo by J.Chong

I have hauled whole, cleaned 3-5 lb. salmon homeward by bike. Then after ensuring  salmon scales were thoroughly scraped off, I would cut up large chunks to freeze for meals.  Salmon is the West Coast’s roast beef. You can never go wrong for visitors by showcasing a salmon dish at least once.

Sometimes red salmon  in art alludes to certain salmon breeds, while other art depicts the salmon as a silvery, powerful fish.  Both are artistic interpretations are valid:  the  flesh of salmon can be light pink or deep orange of sockeye salmon.

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There’s salmon art in some Vancouver parks, in sidewalk mosaic art, etched in street furniture, on walls of some public schools, fences and adorning some warehouses.  There’s enough to create a tour de salmon art by bike.  Just be prepared to cycle for at least a few hours or even for the day, to marvel this artwork at various locations across Metro Vancouver.

Salmon pillar carvings by an aboriginal totem carving workshop. Granville Island, Vancouver BC 2014. Photo by J. Chong
Salmon pillar carvings by an aboriginal totem carving workshop. Granville Island, Vancouver BC 2014. Photo by J. Chong

You can never go wrong, to use salmon imagery for art in Vancouver and the northwest Pacific coast. We would not want a day in the future for this magnificent fish to disappear from our waters and imagination.

More Salmon and Nature in Vancouver Art
Know Your Salmon Species. In Vancouver Sun. Aug. 14, 2013.

Mosaic Park: A Creative Stream of Collective Consiousness and Dreams. Aug. 2, 2010.

St. George Rainway: Painting a Bygone Salmon Stream. Jul. 18, 2012.

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25 Comments Add yours

  1. Beautiful art Jean! I get the feeling that you must sometimes really miss the coast. How’s the recovery coming? Will you be happily cycling again by the summer? ❤
    Diana xo

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jean says:

      Admittedly I miss the west coast/British Columbia a lot, Diana. After living in 3 distinctly different regions of Canada so far, my appreciation and love for Canada, has deepened. One cannot go to a lot of the European countries and find in 1 city different art, on….salmon. The closest fit was when I went to Greek islands, and saw dolphins featured in some of their ancient art.

      Every few weeks, I’m making strides. Already summer is creeping up and I feel especially out of synch when I see people wearing and cycling in shorts. Usually I am too in other years! Hope to get onto bike in a few weeks.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Girl Gone Expat says:

    A great post Jean – the art art work is beautifully displayed in it:) I was not aware the west coast of BC had a lot of salmon art, but it is very natural with the abundance of salmon they have. We had the pleasure of experiencing the salmon go up the rivers to spawn in Alaska, very exciting!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jean says:

      Girlexpat, I certainly hope to be lucky as you to see a wild salmon run one day. The construction project where I worked in Langley, was only 30 km. away from an annual salmon river spawning area. Quite a number of the ex-pat employees from Germany went to marvel over it. I heard stories later of the ex-pat just in love with salmon fishing which is not surprising because a lot of the natural rivers in Germany no longer have massive wild fish schools.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Lani says:

    I love salmon! I love fish though, so it’s not really fair. You know how certain folks gravitate towards certain motifs or animals to decorate their homes or to wear? For me, it’s the fish. So, this post was a little heavenly 🙂 for me. Plus, salmon is so healthy and yummy. I think it’s the only fish where I don’t feel bad for eating it. Hahahaa. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jean says:

      Do you mean feel bad from eating certain types of fish that becoming rarer? Well, there have been some years, the federal Canadian department of fisheries was concerned about thinner salmon runs. Wild salmon and preserving its habitat along its water journey inland is a concern. Like you, I like fish / sealife art motifs anywhere. I haven’t yet featured west coast whale art yet. 😉

      Like

      1. Lani says:

        I think fish are cute. Hahaha. So I don’t like to eat them 😛

        Like

  4. Sue Slaght says:

    Beautiful art and images Jean. I will be more watchful when on the west coast. How is the recovery coming?

    Like

    1. Jean says:

      Hi Sue: Metro Vancouver and the Islands do have some great art that celebrates its local history and Nature. Here’s a starting place: http://vancouver.ca/parks-recreation-culture/public-art.aspx

      Still not on bike yet and still working on getting my sleep patterns in order. But we enjoyed walking around in Banff. Thank goodness for sunshine and dry pavements this month…so far.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Sue Slaght says:

        Thank you for the link Jean!. Glad to hear that the progress continues. Yes we are grateful for the good weather. Enjoy the walking and getting your sleep back to normal. I hope to hear one day soon of you being able to get back on the bike. All the very best to you.

        Like

  5. Wow… I didn’t notice there are so many salmon arts when I was in Vancouver. Probably, I didn’t pay attention. 😦

    Like

    1. Jean says:

      Maybe it was all the dazzling mountains so close by or the bevy of many different restaurants and cuisines to choose from. 😉 Hope you had a taste of local salmon while in Vancouver.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Mabel Kwong says:

    Brilliant works of art. Never knew salmon was the go-to kind of meat in Vancouver. I suppose it’s artwork done and appreciated by the locals there…not sure if of a particular background. Sounds like there’s widespread regard and taste for this fish. Won’t be surprised if there are more kinds of ways to cook salmon than you can count over there.

    Do I like eating salmon? Yes, I do. I love sashimi. Also love my mother’s pan-fried salmon that she cooks with a bit of ginger on top. However, when eating out I tend to avoid friend salmon – it’s served very oily here. The other day I had a cooked salmon sushi roll and it was literally dripping with oil.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jean says:

      So Australia probably doesn’t get any wild salmon swimming in its ocean waters nearby. I think wild salmon need colder water and certain type of things to eat. It’s not unusual to go to a barbecue or a friend’s small dinner in the Vancouver area, to be served salmon or at least some sort of seafood when living near the coast. I’m sure there are locals just tired of local seafood. But that has never been me.

      What type of wild edible fish is native to ocean waters in Australian coastal waters and popular with locals?

      So the panfried salmon in restaurants tends to be oily in your city? I don’t see much of cooked salmon in sushi rolls in Vancouver and if there is, then the restaurant is being abit “cheaper”. That doesn’t sound right at all to have sushi roll that has any oily residue. The better sushi uses cold smoked salmon (gravlax) in Vancouver and Toronto. Salmon is also from the Atlantic Ocean side of Canada. There, the salmon tends to be smaller and fewer varieties than on Pacific coast.

      Like

      1. Mabel Kwong says:

        In Australia, flathead and barramundi are very, very popular with locals, be it grilled, steamed, battered or fried. Blue grenadier is also popular with palates here. However, a lot of our fish is sourced from waters in Asia…it’s cheaper this way.

        I suppose the cooked oily salmon sushi I had was geared towards appealing to typical Western tastebuds. I wish we had more kinds of salmon here in Australia.

        Like

        1. Jean says:

          I have heard of those 2 fish varieties and probably are sold in Vancouver and Toronto Chinatowns. Admittedly I tend to prefer to buy fresh fish from local sources. I’ve never heard of blue grenadier which maybe there are different names for same fish in other countries.

          Just to let you know in North America, there is a type of hot smoked /candied salmon which gives a heavier, oil finish to the fish pieces. It originates from the First Nations people (which in the U.S. they are called native Indians) which they did their hot smoking of fish for centuries. I’ve never had hot smoked salmon sushi nor served as sashimi in Metro Vancouver which has hundreds of sushi and sashimi restaurants. Some of them owned and run by Chinese-Canadians. What you’re experiencing sounds like fusion food gone abit wrong.

          Liked by 1 person

  7. livelytwist says:

    “This long, exhausting and self-sacrificial marathon run of salmon life in Nature, continues to capture our imagination.”

    It certainly gave me something to chew as I didn’t know that about salmon. In our own way, we sacrifice for future generations.

    Lovely photos Jean, thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jean says:

      Does the Netherlands celebrate Mother’s Day? It was this past Sunday in North America –of course, it’s a bit commercialized for the retailers. Hope your spring is a lot warmer and sunnier now.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. livelytwist says:

        Yes, same day as The States. Spring is beginning to look like spring 🙂
        Thanks Jean.

        Like

  8. diahannreyes says:

    The West Coast’s roast beef. I like that. Did not realize how much this particular fish has permeated not just the Pacific West Coast’s tastebuds but also it’s culture and art. A fitting homage I would say. Your post takes salmon off the plate for me in the sense that I don’t know that I will ever be able to look at them the same again.

    Like

    1. Jean says:

      Clever, Diahann: “Takes salmon off the plate..” 🙂 Quite honestly as a Canadian, how I didn’t realize that in some other countries, certain fish have not been integrated in symbols and with reverence. Even if the fish has had centuries long legacy. Take for instance, tuna for the Japanese: maybe there’s centuries old stories and paintings. But the only “reverence” I sense, is the high pricing for whole large tuna in Japan.

      Like

  9. Love the salmon on the sidewalk.

    Like

    1. Jean says:

      Vancouver has used sidewalk mosaics and pavement painting to denote a former site of a salmon stream/habitat. Or they install metal engraved plaques /fish motifs in the pavement.

      Like

  10. Showed Tennyson the school. LOL. First time seeing one named after my boy. =) Very cool diverse art.

    Like

    1. Jean says:

      He was anointed with a great name. 🙂 Glad you enjoyed the art.

      Like

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