Among Giants, a new exhibit at the Art House Gallery in the Bella Coola Valley, features paintings by Heather Karin Martin, an artist and teacher who moved to the area two years ago.
“My intention was to share the beauty found in Nuxalk traditional territory,” said Martin. “As well as to highlight the precarious state that this entire ecosystem faces.”
Martin began creating the works in November 2022 and over six months completed them, with gaps in between to focus on other aspects of her life, including her family and her job as a learning support teacher at Acwsalcta School.
She prefers to use acrylic paint because she paints very quickly, and because acrylic paints are water soluble and more eco-friendly.
This is her second solo exhibit in Bella Coola. She had a show last year in June, which she completed the paintings in six weeks because of a quick time line.
That first show had a much more linear theme, she said.
“My style has evolved a bit over the last year and is leaning in a more realistic direction.”
One of paintings in the show, Alpine Siren, is an image of the pink monkey flower which is relatively rare.
“Stumbling across something so delicate and striking has me headed for the land as much as possible. I tend to get absorbed by the minutiae of the forest floor.”
When she is not scouting for flowers she is often taking in the magnificent views found in the valley, the alpine, and the tidal waters, she explained.
“I hope my work will inspire others to connect with the land and the kin that share this valley with us.”
Gallery director and president of the Bella Coola Valley Arts Council Ida Eriksen said the colours and subject matter in the artwork capture the essence and atmosphere of the West Coast, creating a deeply evocative experience for the viewer.
“The region’s natural beauty, diverse landscapes, and vibrant culture are often celebrated through various artistic mediums, and this artwork successfully embodies those elements.”
Martin has been making art her whole life and completed an honours bachelor of fine arts program at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ont.
Since arriving in the valley, Martin said the Nuxalk and surrounding communities have been “astoundingly” warm and welcoming to her and her family.
“I’ve never encountered such a sense of caring and kindness before. It’s truly remarkable.”
Among Giants will be on until June 30, 2023. The gallery is open Tuesday to Saturday from 1 to 5 p.m.
An opening of the show was held on Saturday, June 10, and had a strong turn out with a lot of great feedback from the viewers, Martin said.