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Elise Richman

Artist: Elise Richman

If you don’t know where you are, you don’t know who you are.
-Wendell Berry


Elise RichmanI'm a Tacoma-based artist and painting professor at the University of Puget Sound. I received a BFA from the University of Washington and MFA from American University in Washington, DC. While in DC, I learned about the campaign to remove the four lower Snake River dams. This was over two decades ago when this seemed like a radical proposition -- now this large scale river restoration seems achievable. Since 2019, I have been visiting and representing sites of significance to these salmon population's future as a means of communicating their plight and incredible story through place.

Artist Statement

The story of anadromous salmon migration is epic. These creatures inspire wonder and are a physical manifestation of the interconnectedness of natural systems. Visual art can capture the spirit of these fish and relationship to their mountain streams, watersheds, and ocean environments that are integral to their survival. We are facing a pivotal moment that will decide whether healthy wild salmon populations have a future in the Pacific Northwest. Their future is linked to the future of healthy river systems and functional political systems.

Elise Richman: Sunbeam
Elise Richman: Sunbeam
2021 - Watercolor, ink, charcoal, graphite, and pastel on watercolor paper - 45 x 29 inches
Sunbeam Dam, featured in Sunbeam, was built on the upper main Salmon River in 1909 to power local gold mines. The dam only operated for one year, but remained until 1934 when it was blown up to restore sockeye salmon habitat in the lakes -- including Red Fish, Petit, and Alturas -- at the headwaters of the Salmon River. Will the lower Snake River dams -- built over half a century after Sunbeam Dam -- follow in Sunbeam’s footsteps? Will they be removed for the benefit of the ecosystem, federal obligations to tribes, and the survival of fishing and recreation-dependent communities?

 Elise Richman: Meadow III: Johnson Creek

Elise Richman: Meadow III: Johnson Creek
2021 - Colored pencil on paper - 28 x 52 inches
This large scale drawing represents a meadow in the gentle, high elevation headwaters of Salmon River tributaries that serve as a nursery and spawning area for Snake River salmon and steelhead. The Alaska-like habitat in these creeks is currently underutilized by salmon because of the impacts of downstream dams.


Elise Richman: RiverscapeElise Richman: Riverscape