Golden artist Claire Dibble is currently preparing to kayak from Canal Flats, British Columbia to Astoria, Oregon. The source-to-sea trip of 2,000 kilometres will take nearly four months, starting in July.
The journey is a large-scale art project which will include documentary photography, interviews with residents of the Columbia Basin, and a handbuilt kayak. Ms. Dibble recently completed the boat, a 14’ skin-on-frame style kayak made from locally sourced Western Red Cedar and White Oak from the Lower Columbia Basin.
A selection of photographs created during the trip will be exhibited as the journey progresses. Small prints of photographs from the river will be shown at Kootenay Gallery in Castlegar from June 20th to August 24th and at the Columbia Art Gallery in Hood River, Oregon in September and October. An exhibition of final works, including the kayak, will be shown sometime after the trip is completed.
The project is meant to highlight the ways the Columbia connects people all along the river, showing that, despite differences in lifestyle or values, there are also common interests and appreciation. To help illustrate this, Ms. Dibble plans to interview people from a variety of backgrounds along the way. The goal is to create a portrait of the river and its people in 2019, amidst the renegotiations of the Columbia River Treaty.
The trip will involve navigating 14 dams by portaging, shuttling, or the use of navigational lock systems where possible. With so many dams on the river, there is more slackwater than moving water, and Ms. Dibble is outfitting her kayak with a small sail for the times when winds are at her back. She will paddle through wetlands and reservoirs, past timber harvesting, agricultural lands, the Teck smelter in Trail, one of North America’s most contaminated nuclear sites at Hanford Reach, and giant barges moving goods through the Lower Columbia.
There will be several events in towns and cities along the way, including slideshows, community paddle sessions, and talks with school children. She is teaming up with Rocky Mountain Naturalists for an event on her scheduled launch date of July 1st in Canal Flats.
Ms. Dibble is a photographer, artist, and freelance writer who has lived in Golden for the last 10 years. She has shown past projects at the Art Gallery of Golden and in pop-up exhibits on the pedestrian bridge (2012) and along Highway 1 (2016) where she showed a series of 101 portraits of highway travellers in the windows of Tim Hortons.
Further information can be found at the project website, www.watershedmoments.art.