Emilie Springer -- Memories in Names
The last story I was able to share with KBBI was in June in conversation with Dr. Marcus Horning and his research on sleeper sharks. After that, Prince William Sound started fishing daily and it wasn’t feasible to compose and do deck work at the same time. I had some ideas, at least one that I hope I’ll still be able to share from a man who worked in one of the Chenega canneries in several decades ago. The cannery piers are still visible there and I couldn’t help but wonder what it used to be like. But! That’s going to be an interview I have to do by phone and I’ll see if I can get it ready for next week. This week, to start back with KBBI community stories, I attended Homer Council on the Arts special one-day event of Tim Troll’s exhibit “Waters of Bristol Bay” that they had displayed in July.
In his July talk, Troll introduced himself by saying “my real job is the executive director of the Bristol Bay Heritage Land Trust. In many ways we owe our existence to the Kachemak Heritage Land trust, they helped us get started back in 1999.”
“We’ve got something new and I wanted to use the opportunity of this art show to let everyone know about this “big deal.” We work out in the Bay, Illiamna and we have managed to negotiated a conservation easement with the village corporation for 44,000 acres. It is absolutely incredible salmon habitat. We discovered through the magic of genetics just in this little corner of the lake probably 50% or more of the salmon that return to Lake Illiamna spawn there. And, Lake Illiamna is really the heart of Bristol Bay when it comes down to it. So, we’ve got to raise 20 million dollars in the next year and a half.”
In a quick conversation on Saturday, Troll explained that the work for this show “is actually a series of paintings that I've been doing over the years, from a lot of the time and memories I have from out west. I don't know. I just sort of took a look back and saw that I was painting a lot of images from that time. I went out in the mid-nineties to be the CEO of the local village corporation in Dillingham. That's what got me out there. I did that for six years. Then worked for the state for awhile and raised my boys out there. The art work here is mostly just scenes from the bay. These paintings are a variety of medium but most of them are acrylic on black canvas or colored pencil on black paper.”
At the show on Friday, there was a flyer for the land trust and the one statement and image that caught my attention was “Heritage: recording local place names” with a native man pointing towards a spot on a map and Troll making a note with a pen.
Memories: our talk immediately went closer towards a mutual interest in the Bristol Bay sailboat fishery rather than his art. Granted: they were colorful interpretations of landscape and water, boats and gear but my distraction was Troll’s book Sailing for Salmon: The Early Years of Fishing in Alaska’s Bristol Bay 1884-1951. That’s where the conversation turned. “I put that together to commemorate the 125th anniversary of the commercial fishery. I didn't think too many people really realized how old the fishery was and that it began with sailboats. When I first went there, there was still some of the old fishermen alive. And just to hear those stories was pretty amazing. I'm not a fisherman, but I had been out fishing on Bristol bay. And to think of it being done by sailboats, particularly given the tides and the way things in that fishery works. It's pretty amazing. Of course, if you've been out there you can still see parts of the old canneries and things like that.”
But, place “names” is where our conversation eventually ends up. Troll starts naming specific places that inspired his work over time and in order to find them I had to search again: Kulik Lake, Wood Tikchik State Park, Lake Illiamna, Egegik, Dillingham, Palugvik. And, that’s just a handful.
There’s so much more that lies beneath an initial glance at a show and what it will mean depending on a viewer.