Tale of a Fish Scale

women looking at art fish scale work

Local exhibit illuminates Indigenous Artistry for National Day of Truth and Reconciliation.

On September 30, as we observe the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, the TREX art space in downtown Medicine Hat offers a poignant reflection on Indigenous history and culture through its unique Tale of a Fish Scale art exhibit. Curated by Genevieve Farrell, this exhibit shines a spotlight on the intricate artwork of three Indigenous Albertan artists, Ruby Sweetman, Erin Marie Konsmo, and Laura Grier, each bringing a unique perspective and story to the fore.

Situated in the heart of Medicine Hat, TREX Space is a public art gallery committed to making Alberta artwork accessible to Albertans. The gallery is dedicated to exhibiting and promoting the work of Alberta artists and is always free and open for all to enjoy.

This featured exhibit highlights the traditional art form of fish scale art, a craft developed and practiced by the Metis and Cree people living in Northern Alberta.

“Fish Scale art is a unique and labour intensive process,” says Sierra Zukowski, Program Manager and Curator, TREX Southeast. “It’s not something you can simply buy pieces for from the craft store. You must catch the fish, clean it, scale it, dry it, and then artists often add colour to the scales, and then arrange the scales in an intricate pattern.”

The exhibition serves as a reminder of the importance of preserving Indigenous art forms and traditions. It fosters a sense of understanding and appreciation for the diverse cultures that form the fabric of Canada, encouraging visitors to engage in conversations about truth and reconciliation.  

“This particular exhibition has been travelling across the province for two years and,” says Sierra. “We also have another travelling exhibition on display at the new Indigenous Center at Medicine Hat College called, “What’s Held.”

The Tale of a Fish Scale exhibit invites the public to explore the rich heritage of Indigenous art, offering a platform for reflection, learning, and dialogue.

“One of the most impactful aspects for me is the artists’ desire to pass down this unique artform which would otherwise be lost,” says Sierra. “The practice of using all parts of the animal encourages us all to be more resourceful and appreciative of the natural world, resonating with broader themes of sustainability and respect for nature.”

Tale of a Fish Scale is available for viewing at TREX Space until November 4, 2023.

TREX Space is located downtown Medicine Hat at #2 516 3rd Street SE. For more information on TREX and the exhibit visit www.trexsoutheast.ca.