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Remembering The Past Through Her Art

Indigenous artist Kaila Farrell-Smith said she is “finding meaning in what was lost” through her works.

Her painting, called “Vision Quest Glyphology,” is the main attraction and hangs on the 30-foot wall in the Vancouver City Hall lobby.

Farrell-Smith is a Klamath/Modoc contemporary artist chosen by City Hall curator Erin Dengerink to showcase her artwork in the lobby from January to March. She will also be featured in Clark’s Archer Gallery following the end of her current exhibit.

According to Dengerink, there are usually three or four of these exhibits each year at City Hall that are funded by an anonymous donor. “It’s a really beautiful piece,” she said.

The painting features reconstructions of petroglyphs found along the Nch’i-Wána River or the Columbia River, many of which were lost after the construction of the dams.

Farrell-Smith said the petroglyphs inspired her and although she admits she doesn’t exactly know what they mean, she constructs her own meaning through her artwork.

“I paint because I’m able to figure things out,” Farrell-Smith said.

Alongside the paintings are red hand-twined cords, a daily practice Farrell-Smith exercises to keep her culture alive and help draw a line between the past and present of her people.

Farrell-Smith explained the painful past times for indigenous people, of assimilation and the termination of tribes, including her own. “There was a lot of loss of culture.”

Farrell-Smith also recognizes the present and said she was thankful to be able to grow up learning the ways of her ancestors: for the revival of her culture and for her to “unerase” the culture of indigenous people through her art.
Another part of the exhibit is what Farrell-Smith calls “The Healing Flags Project,” the product of Farrell-Smith’s work with underserved youth in the community. Flags made by the youth are decorated with images inspired by the petroglyphs and were created with hand carved stamps. The flags are displayed along the railings in the City Hall lobby.

Farrell-Smith will be hosting an art talk Feb. 19 at 7 p.m. at the North Bank Artists Gallery at 1005 Main St. to talk about her exhibit and other current projects, according to the press release. Farrell-Smith will also be featured in Archer Gallery March 1 through April 23 in the exhibit “Woven; Art of Contemporary Native Basketry.”

Her hand woven baskets will be a part of the show, an artform she has recently learned.

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