The natural world has inspired me since I was very young. From the time I stood on our apartment balcony and watched the squirrels skitter around the poplar tree in front of our apartment building, nature has been a place where I could witness endless magic. I was also a keen artist from an early age, spending lots of time drawing, painting, sewing and doing crafts at school and on the kitchen table. Years later I completed a Degree in Fine Arts at Concordia University in Montreal.
After moving to Vancouver in 1980, I began to learn about the natural and human history of the local area. From 1997 - 2007 I was involved with Utsam; the Witness Project in the Upper Elaho with the Squamish Nation. At that time, I was living next to South False Creek. Being inspired by Witness and marathon swimmer Fin Donnelly I decided to create a watershed group which eventually evolved into the False Creek Watershed Society in 2004. Later, I moved to the Riley Park neighbourhood and lived there for 18 years where I got to know a great deal of the area's natural history.
I am a Certified Master Gardener, trained at Van Dusen Botanical Garden and my specialty is native plants. I produced a BC Rivers Day event called The Salmon Celebration from 2004-2009 and the Interspiritual Blessing of the Salmon for Earth Day from 2006-2008. Since then, I have organized many Lost Stream and Earth Walks with the False Creek Watershed Society and First Nations History Walks at the Vancouver Folk Music Festival.
During my residence in Vancouver, I have worked as a costumer, visual artist, writer and naturalist. In 2015, I returned to UBC to do a Masters in Anthropology. My research spoke about Place-based based connections and an ability of Indigenous people to teach us how to be sustainable. This work was base on years of creating relationships with resident First Nations individuals and groups. (See Web Page on this site: Graduate Studies)
In this time, I have learned a great deal more about the natural world and have continued to experiment with how to translate some of this knowledge and feeling into two dimensional media. I have also done some follow-up courses at Emily Carr University of Art and Design in Vancouver.
I have exhibited works in various venues - mostly photographic collage, drawing and fabric applique. In 2005 I founded the False Creek Watershed Society and am presently on staff. I have a strong interest in natural history and the preservation and rehabilitation of the wild Pacific salmon and the local ecology - especially its water systems.
Today I am particularly drawn to new ways of seeing and understanding the natural world from our human perspective. Tribal man once relied on nearby land for sustenance and shelter. Today this connection is more remote. This does not mean we are any less reliant on the land for our welfare; we are just more disconnected and the need to respect and steward the earth is not as immediately obvious.
I enjoy collage because the artist can rearrange the familiar into the absurd and the fanciful. My intention is to jar our visual reality; to recombine familiar images to create a new understanding. I want to encourage the viewer to linger; to interpret a familiar natural object such as a tree or a fish or a high rise – in an entirely new light. The Surrealists made some bizarre visual realities by pioneering this method.
I come to working with fabric honestly since my maternal grandmother was a seamstress in Poland and my mother was very adept at sewing and knitting. I spent over a decade creating costumes for the theatre and with this training I have enjoyed creating fabric applique which tell stories. Jewish ritual art lends itself to fabric easily and I was commissioned early on to do and arc curtain parochet for the historic synagogue in Victoria. I have also done other parochet and some appliqued tallit - the prayer shawl.
My love affair with salmon started when I learned more about the natural history of Vancouver which before 1850 was an old growth forest crisscrossed with salmon streams and inhabited by First Nations. These iconic fish swam into my consciousness - invading my thoughts and dreams - even though they were no longer living in my city. I became one of the “salmon people” and was drawn to fisheries and water issues and activism. I thought that if we could attempt to better understand the world of salmon – the rivers and the ocean, the watersheds and the water, then we could understand our own place on the planet.
Celia Brauer - CV December 2021