Fish Made for "Swimming Together" Workshop

Transformation Fish
Micaceous Clay and slip
19” x 7” x 3” 

In February 2015, the "Swimming Together" workshop, led by Tewa artist Nora Naranjo Morse for the Longhouse Education and Cultural Center brought together several indigenous artists to create a school of fish for the Indigenous Arts Campus at the Evergreen State College. Nora Naranjo Morse is a wonderful artist and thinker, she is well known for her outdoor earthen site-specific piece at the the National Museum of the American Indian called, "Always Becoming."

Nora's idea for the workshop centered around each artist's stories about fish - a memory from childhood, a story someone told them about fish. She hand gathered the most amazing micaceous clay from Taos Pueblo in the traditional way which we used for the fish. The fish were coil built and finished with burnishing, sanding and slip. I created two fish for the school, one called "Transformation Fish." Here are some images of the process of making the fish.


Here is the artist statement for "Transformation Fish": 

This piece depicts a scene from a story I once heard but can’t remember. It depicts the moment a man transforms into a fish, a pickerel. Here, he is changing into a fish, and he is speaking to his friend. His head is still human and his body has already become that of a pickerel. It’s a cautionary tale, but the lesson has escaped me. This work is about stories, remembering stories, forgetting stories, never knowing the story. The story is a metaphor for my culture. The fish was sculpted in three separate parts to show the disconnection I often feel from my own culture, as one who lives and was raised far from my home, as one who is a product of assimilation. Creating this piece is helping me find the story so I can remember it.

Transformation Fish will be installed with the rest of the school of fish on the Indigenous Arts Campus, but before the installation, it was accepted at the 2015 "In the Spirit" exhibition at The Washington State History Museum. I built a light box to display it, since it is extremely delicate.

The second fish I made was a small unnamed pickerel, which I created to learn more about the coiling process and for pure enjoyment of the materials:

 It was an honor to participate in this workshop with a such a wonderful group of Native artists! Thanks very much to the Longhouse and to Nora for making this exciting workshop happen.

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