Laid Over to Cover:

Photography and Weaving in the Salishan Landscape

17 okt 2009
13 dec 2009

Laid Over to Cover examines and counters a pattern of historical invisibility, reasserting an observable presence of Salishan culture previously omitted from Western history through a juxtaposition of Salishan weaving, early Canadian Pacific Railway photographs of British Columbia, and mass-produced prints and etchings. Important examples of traditional Coast and Interior Salish weaving are brought into the present with the work of contemporary practitioners Melvin Williams of the Lil’wat Nation who lives in Mount Currie and Keith Nahanee of the Squamish Nation who lives in North Vancouver.


Alexander Barton Thom, Tenth Crossing of Kicking Horse River, British Columbia, 1886-87. - Source:

Throughout its gradual advance across Canada in the 1880s, the CPR commissioned photographic documentation of landscapes both picturesque and sublime, a strategic program to advertise its transcontinental line and publicize its ambitious involvement within a wider scheme of exploration and development. The William Notman Studio in Montreal was contracted by the CPR to photograph the railway between the Rocky Mountains and the Pacific Ocean. Their photographs taken within Interior and Coast Salish territories of British Columbia created a detailed inventory of previously unrecorded mountain scenery and landscapes, as well as points of contact between aboriginal inhabitants and colonial intruders.

Functioning, as it did in an oral tradition without writing, the Salishan language, like the spiritual culture contained by it, could not become the subject of photographic absorption. Aboriginal traditions of cedar basket-making and ceremonial wool blanket production were similarly rendered unobservable within Western aesthetic paradigms. Prior to prolonged contact with Christian missionary educators after 1860, the First Peoples of North America did not distinguish between craft and fine art. They had traditionally understood expressions of material and spiritual culture to be grounded in parallel relationships of language to place, place to placement, and placement to purpose.

Laid Over to Cover allows us to see these two distinct visions of landscape together for the first time, with each communicating its own particular relation to place – one dominated by vision and the acquisitive gaze, the other formulated through long patterns of use. Like the weaving technique after which it is named, this exhibition interlaces the creative work of two cultures who came to share the same dramatic setting.


Reception: October 17, 3 – 5 p.m.

Curators and Artists’ Talk: October 17, 1:30 – 3 p.m.
Featuring David Bellman, Meirion Cynog Evans, Keith Nahanee, and Melvin Williams.
Jeanne and Peter Lougheed Building, Room 204

Organized by Presentation House Gallery, North Vancouver
Curated by David Bellman and Meirion Cynog Evans