Artfully Edmonds profile: Marni Muir uses art to shine light on plight of salmon

Marni Muir salmon 1114bigEdmonds artist Marni Muir has completed a unique public installation of Fabric Art focusing on the plight of salmon that once called Miller and Shellabarger creeks and the Edmonds Marsh home. From the sea to the creek – her installation is a superficial representation of a blocked pathway.

Muir explains her motivations for the public installation: “I’ve lived in Edmonds my whole life and am deeply committed to the Edmonds way of life. I love the sound of the trains and realize they’ve been here since the late 1800s. But the development of the Edmonds waterfront combined with the growing toxicity of the increasing number of coal and fuel train loads makes the restoration of the natural salmon pathway even more urgent.”

The project was undertaken, in part, in association with a University of Washington Art Department class on “Surfaces,” led by Professor Julia Freeman.

Marni Muir salmon 1114big2The Edmonds Marsh is a 24-acre remnant of a historical 53-plus-acre barrier estuary and marsh complex owned by the City of Edmonds. The marsh is one of the few remaining such ecological features in the Central Puget Sound basin. Though efforts of the City of Edmonds and various interested citizens’ groups a network of observation walkways and interpretive facilities have been built. These facilities greatly enhance the public’s ability to see the marsh’s remarkable range of bird life, estimated at over 220 types of birds.

Edmonds Marsh receives year-round freshwater input from two small streams, Willow and Shellabarger creeks, which together drain an approximately 850 acre watershed, most of which is in a modified, wooded residential area.

At one time the natural outflow of the marsh was an open, salmon-friendly stream which supported migration of salmon annually. However, following development along the waterfront the natural stream was filled. The current outlet of the marsh is via a narrow, steep ditch that extends for 1,200 feet along railroad tracks, transitions under the tracks through two 24-inch-diameter pipe culverts, then enters a 1,400-foot buried pipe that empties into Puget Sound. A tide gate is located approximately 1,000 feet upstream of the outfall line. In 1988 the tide gates were re-opened for most of the year allowing saltwater to re-enter the marsh. Though much work remains, the renewed saltwater flow has begun the slow transformation of plant and bird life to a more original state.

marsh vogel
The Edmonds Marsh (Photo by Larry Vogel)

Muir added, “There are so many wonderful people committed to the beauty and full restoration of the Edmonds Marsh.” (My Edmonds News covered the community’s commitment to this project on October 25, 2014.

Muir continues, “I encourage a visit to the marsh; it’s a place of real beauty and tranquility. Then, if you would like more information on how you might become involved, make contact via the group’s Facebook page, Friends of Edmonds Marsh.

My Edmonds News and Artfully Edmonds were so captivated by the official news release explaining Muir’s “public spaces” act of art that we immediately requested an exclusive interview with the local artist. Muir is a member of the Edmonds Arts Commission, former Pioneer Square art gallery owner, and long-time artists’ representative.

So, please join “Artfully Edmonds” (AE) and Marni Muir (MM) as we discuss this provocative art work.
– – –
AE: The fabric used in your installation is simply stunning, Marni. Can you tell our readers more about it?
MM: Yes, I used Broadcloth cotton, 4’18” X 54″ – hand-sewn, hand-dyed Shibori, with an over-dye and pigment silk screening. The pattern builds to seven layers.
– – –

AE: Is this the first “art as a political act” exhibit that you have completed for the public?
MM: This is my first solo ‘public’ social practice art project AKA “art as a political act”. I am inspired by this form of art and have many “in my heart” so to speak and feel this is the new age of art that goes beyond the studio, at least for me. I’m not quite sure what that looks like but it’s something that continues to “turn up” for me.

Even with the most recent exhibit I curated at the Edmonds Arts Festival Foundation Gallery (the Northwest School art exhibit, titled, “The Edmonds connection”) . . . I was making a point.

There has been so much press, information, exhibits, ‘buzz’ (S.A.M./ MoNA, etc.) surrounding the Northwest School Artists, but there was an element missing . . . and for me, it was not only an important ‘missing’ element, but significant and I wanted to tell the story – thus the exhibit.

The Northwest School founding artists had a connection with Edmonds; not calling it political, really – but important and noteworthy, absolutely!

So, I guess if I see a story, and no one is telling it, I might just try to find a way – as I did with this particular piece.
– – –

AE: Is “Salmon Flow Fabric” the formal name of the exhibit?

MM: Salmon Flow Fabric is not the name of the piece. Actually, I don’t even like that name but wanted to at least get the story started. I am still trying to figure out the name. I kind of like my opening statement, “A superficial representation of a blocked pathway – altered spaces”…and in this case, the story of salmon in Edmonds and other similarly related ‘stories’ like coal trains and fuel carrying trains.

I say ‘spaces’ because I chose three locations, not just one, which was my initial intention…the railroad, but it’s the path that these salmon need to take to get to their final spawning destination that is treacherous, daunting and challenging. Sometimes we face similar obstacles in our life. I know I have; but we can usually find a way or make a way, whether it’s a detour or a new direction. These salmon don’t have that choice and we are their resource, particularly in a case like this. I think Edmonds needs to know what’s going on.

This particular project happens to be about salmon and so much more. If my art can make a difference then I feel I have left a legacy and in fact, made a difference, changed the course, the direction…whatever…as a result, in this little way. So bottom line, if I can make a difference, in the city in which I live and love, by this piece of visual public art, and not by a mere convening that meets over and over again, talking about the same issues and ongoing problems; but rather by presenting something ‘visual’ that gets the attention of the interested, caring public, then it was worth everything to me…even the risk and time invested.

This installation to me was a visual piece about a ‘talked about”, “met about” subject. I think that sometimes if you add the visual element, it changes things. People notice. So, to answer your question, ‘No, salmon flow fabric is not the name of this installation’. I will come up with a name in due time.
– – –

AE: Where will the Salmon Flow Fabric be housed, or exhibited?

MM: To me this installation was a visual piece about a ‘talked about” and “met about” subject.

Where will it end up? I don’t know. Because it is Edmonds specific, and many of the things I am working on and would like to work on are not Edmonds specific, I would like to see this end up some place significant, meaningful and permanent to make a point. Edmonds is a place of safety, environmentally conscious, progressive, wholesome, community-driven, eco-conscious, artistic, inventive . . . too many adjectives to name.

We have so many things that so many cities put together can’t even begin to embrace, we have it all; there are just a few areas that need to seriously be addressed…this being one. At the end of the day, I would love for this piece of art to be a part of a permanent collection as something Edmonds could be proud of and something that made it happen – or at least –became a part of the “making it happen.”
– – –

AE: Marni Muir, I am confident that you will continue to impress the Edmonds community with your community activism and your art form. Artfully Edmonds along with My Edmonds News thanks you for taking the time to be with us today.

— By Emily Hill

  1. Wow Marni!
    Such a great environmental statement for Edmonds and a wonderful means to make an impactful message using your fabric art.This is really well done.
    That afternoon a couple of weeks ago when you shared your vision with Jeanne and myself, I was very impressed with not only your art form but also your method of expression. But now seeing your photos and reading your interview, I am truly inspired.
    Looking forward to seeing and understanding more of your future art forms!
    Great Work!!!

    1. Ted, THANK YOU! I wrote a reply that took me…well, it took me some time. and then poof! It was gone. All I wanted to say, hate to have to do it again, but wanted to thank you for your kind words and affirmation. I want to affirm you back and say YOU, my friend, amaze me! Post cancer survivor, incredible attitude, you look amazing, and I find it pure joy to be in your friendship circle, HORRAY for YOU!
      Thank you for your comments re: this article and even more significant, after our ‘Happy Hour” conversation at “The Hook” that you spent the time to read the article….one of the man
      y things that “move me forward”…..great place BTW….referring of course to THE HOOK in Perrinville, Edmonds, WA>

    1. Thanks Suzanne, I know you can appreciate the subject matter as you deal with so much, Search and Rescue, and I could write a book about YOU, my friend. YOU amaze me every day, and your two heroic, award winning, incredible dogs, BUT, guess who their trainer is?????

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