Arts & Entertainment

Dreaming of Fish

Local artist Dawn Duane brings her dreams to life in traveling 21-piece art exhibition featuring fish made in many mediums

Dawn Duane dreams of fish.

She sees their motion, the way they slide and slip through the water, twisting this way and that, reflecting the light off their scales and colors. Through the water, it can seem like a fish is a dream itself, disappearing from view and flitting back again.

But unlike most dreamers who wake up and shake off their unconscious wanderings, Duane, a lifetime artist, gets to work. All winter, she worked on an exhibition as an ode to her dream pals, the ones swimming and flipping through the waters of her mind.

The resulting “I Dream of Fish” traveling exhibition is a 21-piece show of breathtaking breadth, with Duane tackling as many mediums of art as she could in one show. First at the ImagineIF Library, now the show has moved on to Soucie Soucie Salon and Med Spa in Kalispell, where it will live until the end of May. Following that, the show will move to Kalispell Regional Medical Center.

In the salon, the pieces melt in perfectly with the décor. Spread throughout the building, the fish are present in hand-forged copper, dried birch bark, fused glass, painted on scarves and canvasses with various types of paint, and in jewelry.

“I get a lot of ideas,” Duane said while looking at a large fused-glass piece hanging in a frame of wrought iron in the front of the shop.

The fish is made of four parts, each hanging independently within the frame, so it can move in the wind and the light. Duane didn’t know how she was going to get it to fit or how she would get the frame to hold the glass, so she turned to her husband Rande Simon, who helps engineer solutions for her art problems.

“I’ll say, ‘I want to do this and it’s impossible,’ and he’ll make it happen,” Duane said.

As she wandered through the exhibit, Duane seemed to happen upon the pieces for the first time, often proclaiming that each was her favorite. Scarves hanging on the walls, handpainted with fish, or a pastel of koi fish in a pond, it doesn’t matter – Duane seemed attached to them all, to all their stories.

One in particular, though, catches her imagination. It’s the first piece in this series that she and Simon put together: Three glass-fused spawning salmon hanging from a piece of driftwood.

“It’s the piece I want to come home to my house,” Duane said.

She’d made it in the middle of winter, when they didn’t quite have the driftwood access they wanted. They found a seller online, and met in the Wal-Mart parking lot – “In the dark,” Duane adds – and picked out the perfect piece. The memory made both Duane and Simon smile, which is the main reason she loves the piece so much.

The jewelry pieces are made with dichroic glass, which displays two different colors at a time.

“It’s a lot like fish,” Duane said. “It captures that luminescence.”

Otherwise, nature plays a major role in her work. The fish are often accompanied by glass tumbled soft by Flathead Lake or rocks from local waterways. The fish made of birch bark came from downed trees on their property that were still damp thanks to a nearby creek. She weighted the eventual piece with a stone from the creek, hanging it all from a found deer antler shed. Add glass and copper to the mix, and Duane finds herself working with brittle or difficult mediums.

“To me, being able to manipulate things like that is awesome,” Duane said.

She’s been an artist her whole life; she likes to say she was born this way. Duane owned a gallery in downtown Kalispell for a couple of years, as well as her business, “Everyday Art,” for 20 years. Her art exhibits have been in the Hockaday Museum of Art, Colter Coffee, the Bigfork Arts and Cultural Center, Polson’s Sandpiper Gallery, Coffee Traders, and more.

The public is invited to tour the show at Soucie Soucie, Monday through Saturday. Duane also makes pieces on commission.

For now, she’s content with hanging the exhibit perfectly at the salon and enjoying interacting with the people who are drawn to the art. But she’s still dreaming, her mind always wandering.

“It’s what speaks to me,” Duane said.

For more information on Dawn Duane, visit