Kodiak Maritime Museum brings fishermen-inspired art to Kodiak’s downtown brewery


There’s a new pint-sized exhibition on display at Kodiak’s downtown brewery. The Kodiak Maritime Museum’s exhibition is called “Water Haul,” and features art inspired by and for the commercial fishing industry.

Catie Bursch is an artist from Homer. She’s been an Alaska commercial fisherman for more than three decades with her family in Bristol Bay. She said the term “water haul” refers to a net that comes up empty, but there’s also a more somber parallel. 

“In the area that I’ve been setnetting, it seems like someone drowns not quite every year but almost every year, unfortunately,” she said. “And so, a lot of times with our setnet skiffs, we’re looking for the body basically.”

Bursch created 11 small-scale dioramas for the show – they’re filled with nick-nacks and built out of fishing paraphernalia, like empty Xtratuf boxes and a gutted single side band radio. And in each one, skeletons are dressed in raingear, laughing, or sharing stories on the dock. 

Bursch says some of her inspiration comes from the Mexican tradition known as Dia de los Muertos – or the Day of the Dead – when families leave out drinks and food for deceased family members in hopes that they’ll visit. Bursch said her work is similarly crafty and whimsical – and it’s a way to celebrate the fishermen that don’t make it home.

“If you got one day to come back to earth like, where would you go and what would you do?” she said. “And I just imagine myself as a fisherman being like, ‘I just want to go back to the cannery bunkhouse and play crib with my old friend Johnny, or I just want to get on the flying bridge and get a fish call.’”

“Water Haul” was exhibited back in December of 2020 at a gallery in Homer. Bursch said a lot of people didn’t get to see it because of COVID. This time, the Kodiak Maritime Museum is showing her work at Kodiak Island Brewery on Lower Mill Bay Road. Bursch said she’s hoping others in the fishing community will have a chance to see it.

“That’s the audience I would most want,” said Bursch. “So, I just feel like Kodiak is a great place for this art just because, you know, I want fishermen to see it.”

“Water Haul” is on display through the end of May.


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