After fifty years, the locals in Portland, Texas, think nothing of a woman standing outside an art gallery and frame shop washing a dead fish with a garden hose.
“I guess you would say its yoga for the brain,” says Dinah Bowman, an artist who starts with the carcass of a fish, scales and all, then applies acrylic paint from the tail fin to the lips. Before the paint dries, Bowman carefully presses a sheet of thin paper directly onto the fish, creating a stunning, almost photographic image.
The Portland native is one of the most recognized and accomplished artists who practice the ancient Japanese process known as Gyotaku. In the days before photography, fishermen in Japan used this printing method to record images of their catch. Bowman keeps the craft alive for proud fisherman on the Texas Gulf Coast—her recent work captures the impression of an eight-hundred-pound tuna.
A trained marine biologist, Bowman first witnessed the process while on a research assignment almost five decades ago. Since then, her work has been exhibited at the Smithsonian and has traveled the globe.
In this video from Texas Country Reporter, Bowman demonstrates the technique from the small cinder-block studio where she has worked for decades.