Dawson Days

For me, the path of Art and Science has run through Activism. This site explores the path, beginning with my Dawson Days.

 

When I finished High School I studied Fine Arts at Sir George Williams University in Montreal (now Concordia University) for two years, then dropped the study to live in Dawson City, Yukon. I thought that to be an artist what I needed to do was make art, not study it. I spent two years in Dawson, after working the previous two summers there as a bartender at night and maker and seller of tourist art during the day. Then one dark and cold December day I received a package from my parents with a colourful brochure about an art school in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, and suggestion I finish my studies there. This sounded like a good idea.

I arrived in Mexico on December 30th, 1978, and nearly two years later completed my Bachelors of Fine Arts degree from the University of Guanjuato. Then I went back to Dawson City, with a small grant from the Canada Council to produce art about the people and places there. The grant was based on the strength of a 1977 show of paintings at the Whitehorse Public Gallery, which featured paintings of landscapes and people literally framed in old window frames and doors. These could be hung and used as functional art.

 

I painted and made photographs all winter, but struggled to find as strong a voice as I had had earlier. Many of those paintings has been sold or destroyed in the great flood of Dawson City in 1979, when I was in Mexico. They were lost to me as a body of work. I was also depressed, or at least very sad, for having been left by the American woman I had brought with me from Mexico. In December of that year, after suffering a touch of frost bite on her nose, she has decided to visit her parents in Chicago for Christmas. She never came back, leaving me with a root cellar full of parsnips and more moose meat than I could eat. I finished the winter, and the following spring had a show of photographs at the Edmonton Library's Public Gallery. But the spark was gone and before settling in for another winter in Dawson I packed up and moved back to my parent's home in Ottawa. By early January I was enrolled in a Masters Degree in Canadian Studies at Carleton University, with a view to getting political with my art.

Indigenous themes and the Canadian North were the focus of my studies, fused with memories of the The Mexican Revolutionary muralists I had studied in Mexico. My time in Mexico doing illustrations for Archeologists at the Mayan ruins of Yaxchilán also drew me to Anthropology, taking on a meaning of its own, independently of my occasional works of art.  

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