Dive Into The World of Sustainability with Joe Feddersen 

Get inspired by a glass twist on historical Native fishing methods

November 20, 2023
A wide angle shot of six prints on the wall, divided by a hanging glass cylindrical artwork

Installation photography of Sharing Honors and Burdens: Renwick Invitational 2023, Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2023; Photo by Albert Ting

Artworks by renowned Native artist Joe Feddersen (Okanagan/Arrow Lakes) are inspired by the ever-important, ever-connected relationship between people and nature. Mindfulness in consumption is particularly timely as issues surrounding climate and resources continue to be at the forefront of many conversations these days.  

Fedderson's goal is to “create cultural assets for Plateau peoples (for Feddersen, that meant visiting his maternal relatives in British Columbia among the Penticton Indian Band of the Okanagan Valley), to contribute to our history. I want to do works that are of cultural significance and in the voice of my people.” While his art represents his vision and personal experiences, it also sits among other creative expressions by Native Plateau artists stretching back into the past and into the present day. Throughout his career, Feddersen has envisioned architectural design and geometric forms in everyday items. As he said to the Yellowstone Art Museum: “When I think of my work, it’s about the world around me, and this takes a lot of different forms.”  

A close up of a glass-made version of a Native fishing vessel

A close-up of Joe Fedderson's Fish Trap. Photo by Albert Ting.

The glass work Fish Trap, featured in the exhibition, Sharing Honors and Burdens, is based on a piece of fishing equipment used by many Native communities.  While on a visit to the Salish Kootenai Community Center nearly twenty years ago, Feddersen noticed a willow fish trap on the wall. This fish trap was constructed in a slender, conical shape with one end having a radiating circle, or “mouth,” meant to draw the fish inside. The other end is narrow and bound, preventing the fish from escaping. In constructing his glass Fish Trap, Feddersen embellished it with multicolored glass rods, except for the circular opening, which he adorned with blue glass to draw the viewer in. When hanging from the ceiling, the glass fish trap appears to be floating in suspended animation. While based on an ancient basket form and fishing equipment, Feddersen’s Fish Trap celebrates the union between art and technology. 


Based on text created for SAAM's special exhibition Sharing Honors and Burdens: Renwick Invitational 2023. Katie Hondorf contributed to this story. 


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