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Chris Dewees "Life Histories"




“Life Histories” by Davis artist Christopher Dewees will be featured at Gallery 1855 at the Davis Cemetery District office, 820 Pole Line Road.

“Life Histories” provides the viewer an unusual experience blending science, history and the ancient art form of gyotaku. The exhibition will open Tuesday, Sept. 1, and run throughout September. A reception in the artist’s honor, which will include an art demonstration and talk by Dewees, will run from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 13.

Gyotaku (from gyo “fish” and taku “rubbing”) is the traditional Japanese method of printing fish, a practice that dates back to the mid-1800s. Japanese fishermen used this method to document their great catches.

Dewees’ modern take on the art form blends his knowledge of fisheries and ecology to document the life histories of fish species.

In one of his prints he shares the story of the transgender sheephead fish, which is born female and later in life switches to male. Another set of prints will capture the intricate and epic travels of native Chinook salmon.




“My gyotaku style is traditional and delicate,” Dewees says. “I like to emphasize the structure and movement of the fish and shellfish.

“In recent years I have been doing more indirect printing that allows me gain more control of color and even finer detail. Every type of fish is unique and requires a different approach. In the future, as time allows, I hope to do more experimenting with techniques and composition.”

Dewees was first introduced to the specialized medium of fish printing in 1968 when he was a graduate student in fisheries biology at Humboldt State University. He earned a Ph.D. in ecology at UC Davis and worked as the marine fisheries specialist from 1972 to 2007 at UCD, where he served as a link between the University of California and the state’s commercial and recreational fishing industries.

Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and 1 to 4 p.m. on the second Sunday of the month. For more information, visit

Artist ( Description ): 

Christopher M. Dewees contact at

Medium: Gyotaku, or Japanese fish printing

I was first introduced to the specialized medium of fish printing (gyotaku) by Tom Sharp in 1968 when we were graduate students in fisheries biology at Humboldt State University. Tom had seen a demonstration and we spent much of our free time exploring fish printing methods and materials with fellow fisheries students. This served as an excellent diversion from our studies as well as a way to earn a few dollars to pay the rent by selling prints at fish festivals and in shopping malls! I then continued to print fish in Chile during our two years of Peace Corps duty.

Since then I have continued to pursue my understanding of the printing process as well as the fish and fisheries themselves. I earned a Ph.D. in Ecology at U.C. Davis. I was the Marine Fisheries Specialist at UC Davis since 1972, serving as a link between the University of California and the state's commercial and recreational fishing industries. My research focus was on marine fisheries management. My job as well as my passion for fishing brings me in contact with a lot of fish to print.

Over the years I’ve developed contacts with other printers. In the mid-1970s Eric Hochberg, Jr., myself, and a Pennsylvania botanist Robert Little put together the Nature Printing Society. We expected to attract 15 or so people with similar passion for nature printing. Little did we know that the Society would soon grow to over 300 members from around the world.

Doing this sort of specialized art has led to a stream of humorous and weird experiences. People have:

  • Brought me their deceased goldfish, eel, and koi for memorial prints;
  • Tried to buy the painted fish rather than the print at demonstrations;
  • Landed a 300 pound marlin on a Mexican shrimp boat and expected me to print it immediately;
  • Flown me across Kodiak Island to print a freshly-caught 265 pound halibut on an Alaskan beach with the sun setting, tide rising quickly and mosquitoes biting fiercely;
  • Unplugged our freezer (by our kids), which resulted in a load of fish silage for me to discover two weeks later.

My gyotaku style is traditional and delicate. I like to emphasize the structure and movement of the fish and shellfish. In recent years I have been doing more indirect printing which allows me gain more control of color and even finer detail. Every type of fish is quite different and requires a different approach.

If you are curious, my han, or "chop" is the Japanese character for "orphan" or "lonely one", which is what the name Dewees means in Dutch.

Solo and Group Exhibitions:

Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, Washington DC
California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco
Gyotaku-no-kai, Tokyo
Wrubel Gallery, The Nature Company, Berkeley (solo)
Kaiser Center, Oakland
The Naturalist, Davis (solo & continuing display)
Pt. Reyes National Seashore (solo)
The Ren Brown Collection Gallery, Bodega Bay (solo & continuing display)
Archival Framing Gallery, Sacramento
Art by the Sea, Auckland, New Zealand 
Higashimatsuyama Gallery, Japan
Plumshire Inn, Davis (solo)
Thomas Oldham Gallery, Sacramento
Sutter Club, Sacramento (solo)
Pence Gallery, Davis
Solomon Dubnick Gallery, Sacramento
Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History
Davis International House (solo, June 2008)


President Francois Mitterand, Paris
American Fisheries Society, Washington, DC
Dr. R. Enos, Davis, CA
Dr. T. Thompson, Wheatland, WY

Venue ( Address ): 

Gallery 1855

820 Pole Line Road

Davis, CA 95618

Dvorak Art , San Francisco

Other events from Dvorak Art

Figurative Works of Marcy Friedman
03/15/2017 to 04/15/2017
Dave Hennessy Goose Cameos Served With a Medley of Botanicals
04/04/2017 to 04/29/2017
Jose Luis Ceña Ruiz – Spain
International Figurative Biennale
09/01/2016 to 09/24/2016
Michael Lucero Solo Exhibition at John Natsoulas Center for the Arts



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