The Big Idea
Dams: Reservoirs, Reclamation, Renewal
August 26 - December 30, 2022
Coinciding with renewed dialogue about the possibility of breaching dams throughout the Columbia River Basin, this BIG IDEA project offers a conversation about the impact of dams on Idaho and the American West. For more than a century, dams have shaped Idaho’s landscapes, ecosystems and economies. At this historic moment, the project considers the history of damming in the Pacific Northwest, the effects of dams on the region, and a reimagined future for rivers and the life dependent on them in the American West.
SVMoA has commissioned artists Carolina Caycedo, Eirik Johnson, James Prosek and Rachel Teannalach to create new work for the exhibition, including immersive installations.
This project was made possible through generous support from
The Robert Lehman Foundation, Jane P. Watkins,
and Jeri L. Wolfson and Wolfson Family Foundations.
Sun Valley Museum of Art acknowledges the Shoshone and Bannock peoples and their homelands here in the Wood River Valley, as well as their use of these lands in the past, present and future.
SVMoA has commissioned four artists to consider local and regional dams through new bodies of work.
Since 2013, Carolina Caycedo has pursued Be Dammed, an exploration in multiple media of the impact of dams on Indigenous and traditional peoples in the Americas. In July 2021, Caycedo traveled through Idaho visiting dams and speaking with members of the Shoshone-Bannock and Nez Perce Tribes. She researched their traditional fishing practices and interviewed biologists and others, all in preparation for the creation of an installation featuring a new film, Reciprocal Sacrifice, and sculpture, Salute of the Fish.
Photographer Eirik Johnson has often explored the places where human activity and wilderness intersect, including the Elwha River where the Glines Canyon Dam and Elwha Dam have both been removed. The exhibition includes a photograph of the Elwha Dam and a diptych Johnson made at the site of the Glines Canyon Dam before and after removal. For this exhibition, Johnson has made a commissioned series of photographs “along the banks of the roiling wild Elwha,” exploring the transformation the river and landscape have undergone in the eight years since dam removal.
Artist, writer and naturalist James Prosek is interested in intersections and interdependence within ecosystems. He often investigates the effects of boundaries both real (dams) and imaginary (map lines) on wildlife migration and relationships between species. Following a site visit last summer, Prosek has made a large-scale mural, watercolor paintings and sculptures that will help visitors better understand the effects of dams on Idaho’s salmon and other fauna and flora.
In collaboration with Advocates for the West, painter Rachel Teannalach recently pursued a painted study of the Salmon, Snake and Columbia Rivers, from the headwaters of the Salmon to the mouth of the Columbia. For this exhibition, she has made four paintings of the dams along the lower Snake that were recently proposed for breaching, juxtaposing their monumentality with the waterways they intersect.