Tsuneko Kokubo explores the life of plants in new Revelstoke art show

Tsuneko Kokubo's Plant Memory on display alongside Revelstoke Secondary School exhibit

Tusenko Kokubo came to visit the Revelstoke Museum while conducting research for her latest exhibition of paintings, titled Plant Memory.

It was there that Kokubo met curator Cathy English, and learned about the story of Mr. Needham.

“Cathy told me about the urban myth. Mr. And Mrs. Needham were the earliest settlers in the Revelstoke area. After they built their homestead, Mr. Needham said, ‘It’s almost like England, it just needs dandelions.’ So he sent away for dandelion seeds,” said Kokubo.

Mr and Mrs. Needham is one of 15 paintings that make up Plant Memory, a new exhibit that explores the connection between immigrant plants and immigrant people.

“It’s very invasive how we came and took over this land and started cultivating it. The people who were here were pushed away, but we’ve managed to live harmoniously,” said Kokubo. “Before the European invasion of what is now called Canada occurred, there was already a rich variety of plants used and revered by First Nations peoples. Over thousands of years, these peoples may themselves have moved plants, intentionally, through trade, or accidentally. Then a few hundred years ago different waves of settlers started to arrive, often bringing seeds and plants.”

Kokubo , who lives in New Denver, spoke about a plant which can be found along Highway 6, and in the fields ot the abandoned Japanese internment camp.

“I recognized these plants from my mother’s garden. If you know what to look for along Highway 6 you see them all over. When they first came, they brought these seeds with them,” said Kokubo.

Kokubo said she also understands the connection to familiar seeds, recalling that she had taken west coast seeds with her during a trip across the country.

“Even myself, 40 years ago, when I went to Quebec I took seeds. It connects me to the west coast,” she said.

A gardener herself, Kokubo said all of her artwork is inspired by plants. Plant Memory is the first time she’s spent time tracing the history of plants. The project has taken her 16 months, and she spent the first five months collecting stories like the one about Mr. Needham to inspire her.

“The stories from Cathy English were the most fantastic stories,” said Kokubo. “I’m just a gardener and I love to paint. All my inspiration is from around here. I’ve always been drawn by the vegetation.”

Plant Memory runs June 2-23 at the Revelstoke Visual Arts Centre. Also being exhibited is Juried School exhibit: RSS Students. An opening for the two exhibiitions will be held Friday, June 2 from 6-9 p.m.

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