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Artwork Wednesday: Douglas Smarch Jr.

Artwork Wednesday: Douglas Smarch Jr.

This week’s Artwork Wednesday features the work of Douglas Smarch Jr. that can be found in the Yukon Arts Centre’s sculpture garden. This piece was commissioned by the Society of Yukon Artists of Native Ancestry for the Drums Echo Future Vision Project; in conjunction with the YAC’s millennium celebration “View from the Top,” which was a part of the wider Yukon and Canadian millennium celebrations. Smarch Jr. was raised in the traditional lifestyle of the Kookhitaan (Raven) Clan People of the Tlingit Nation. The artist learnt traditional stone, bone and wood carving under community artisans and continued to pursue his career as an artist abroad. Smarch Jr. returned to his home community of Teslin, Yukon in 2004 to re-connect to the natural creative environment. He is one of thirteen master sculptors currently featured in the Journey Exhbition at the Adäka Cultural Festival held at Kwanlin Dun Cultural Centre in Whitehorse. 

Tucked away on the Yukon Arts Centre grounds, Into the Forest beckons its visitors further into the foliage on a worn away path. In this piece Smarch Jr. explores the notion of growth and what it means to evolve and change through stages of life.  The path’s veins extend through the forest in a tree-like shape through the wooded area, at the end we are faced with four rocks representing the four elements: fire, earth, water and air. Three of the four boulders are skillfully carved into by the artist. The first boudler depicts a raven representing air, and second is shaped by whales, loons, seals and a fish to embody water. Finally, a turtle, human and bear represent the earth in the third boudler. The last component of the piece representing fire is left bare; the artist makes this stylistic choice to emphasize the natural history that the volcanic rock holds without added asethtic. Smarch Jr. purposely creates this dialogue to express his interest in interconnectivity. The interactive space is meant to be experienced through exploring, speaking to the human responsibility as keepers of our earth  not as masters but as participants.

To learn more about Douglas Smarch Jr, here.

For more information of Adäka Cultural Festiva, here





Artwork Wednesday: Jim Logan

Artwork Wednesday: Jim Logan

This week’s Artwork Wednesday will be dedicated to Jim Logan’s piece entitled A Re-Thinking on the Western Front. This large-scale work is currently on display with the Locate exhibition and is a part of the Yukon Arts Centre Permanent Collection.

With Métis heritage, Logan grew up in Port Coquitlam, British Columbia and at a young age was encouraged to pursue painting by his mother.  Logan followed his artistic inclination and travelled to Europe to study the work of Van Gogh and Edvard Munch. It  is possible that during this time, Logan began to take notice of what he describes as “the European ego.” As it can be seen in A Re-Thinking on the Western Front, the artist challenges the viewer by redefining a familiar and iconographic image. Housed in the Sistine Chapel, Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam serves as the basis of Logan's statement. The artist is addressing the art historical canon that defines what constitutes an artistic “masterpiece.” Logan’s piece speaks to the lack of diversity amongst art and artists that are held within internationally renowned collections.

Logan draws refrence to Michelangelo's 'Creation of Adam' from the Sistine Chapel 

The power of this work begins with its sheer size and ostentatious gilded frame that is reminiscent of the coveted paintings produced during the time of antiquity. Logan replaces the image of God and Adam with First Nations figures and furthers his message by depicting God in female form. The bold primary colours play into the mocking naivety that the artist conjures through the text portion of the composition. Towards the upper left-hand corner we can read “Sorry Charlie D. I don’t believe in such a theory” and “gee is that me?” under a Darwinian-style illustration of human evolution. Logan’s playful tone further dethrones the European dominance that he believes has translated itself into various aspects of culture and thought throughout North America. 

Learn more about Jim Logan here.

Take a virtual tour of the Sistine Chapel here.

Gallery Intern, Gabriella, stands next to Logan's large-scale piece on display in the Locate exhibition. 

Artwork Wednesday: Bev Thomas

Artwork Wednesday: Bev Thomas

In honour of fibre art and World Wide Knit in Public Day, this Artwork Wednesday will be dedicated to the talented work of Bev Thomas, currently on display with the Jim Robb’s Yukon exhibition. Both Bev and her husband Doug are avid supporters and dear friends of Jim’s, and have played a great role in contributing to the current exhibition. As homage to Jim’s Strait’s Auction House piece, Bev replicated the artist’s composition through the craft of cross stich.

Jim Robb, Strait's Auction House, 2007

Jim first illustrated in 1961, Strait’s Auction House in Dawson City is a favourite subject for Jim as he depicted it many time throughout his career.  The painting on display in the exhibition was completed in 2007, and is notably one of the artist’s favourite works, currently on loan from Doug and Bev Thomas. This slanted and deteriorated structure is a common sight in Dawson, where permafrost is often the demise of many older foundations. In this piece, crisp yellow leaves of the birch trees contrast the rusted background of the auction house emphasizing nature’s reclaim on the weathered building. Consequently, the dilapidated look of Strait’s compliments Jim’s signature illustration style, which he calls his ‘exaggerated truth’ a common theme throughout the artist’s dedicated journey in conserving and illustrating the rich Yukon history.

Strait’s Auction House was constructed in 1901 and was named after Ebenezer S. Strait who originally owned half the land the structure was built upon. Strait’s auction house was at one time Dawson City’s only second hand store, which meant for a lucrative trade.  The transient population meant business from various demographics, Strait’s legendary signage boasted: “Groceries, guns, ammunition, hardware, tobacco, furniture, crockery, clothing and tents.” Strait left Dawson City mysteriously and abandoned the auction house still stocked with all his belongings.

Customized frame for Bev's cross-stich built by Doug Thomas, featuring small-scale reproduction of Strait's Auction House and cabin illustration by Jim Robb


If you would like to attend Whitehorse’s World Wide Knit in Public Day, it is being hosted by the Itsy Bitsy Yarn Store and Yarn Bomb Yukon on Wednesday June 18 from 5:30 – 6:30 on the Waterfront Wharf.  Free knitting lessons, draws and more!

Artwork Wednesday: Jude Griebel

Artwork Wednesday: Jude Griebel

This week’s Artwork Wednesday is dedicated to Jude Griebel’s works from his book “Footsteps in The Macaulay House,” inspired by his Klondike Institute of Art and Culture (KIAC) residency. The three pieces “Shadow-like things, out of the corner of my eye,” “Last night I had another visitation” and “I suddenly stepped into a dark forest in which I was uninvited,” are currently on display in the Locate exhibition. Focusing on themes of psychology and transformation, Griebel’s haunting visuals are inspired by ghost stories from the Macaulay House where the artist completed his KIAC hosted residency. It was an ideal subject matter as Griebel’s work is, in his words, “continually an interplay between the imagination and the physical world, and depicts instances in which these two spaces overlap.”

Located in Dawson City on Princess and 7th Avenue, the Macaulay House was originally the home of the first mayor of Dawson City before finally becoming property of Parks Canada. At one point in its history, the building was developed by the Yukon government as a household for troubled youth, and was temporarily the home to young Daniel Hummel who would later be convicted for murder. Griebel became interested in the rumoured paranormal presence and was accepted by KIAC to complete his project in 2007. In his publish book “Footsteps in The Macaulay House,” Griebel illustrates the ghost stories associate with the house and describes tenant experiences.

Griebel corresponded with past artists and collected their encounters. These three exhibited works from Griebel’s book reflect these accounts of shadowy figures occasionally scene by resident artists. “I suddenly stepped into a dark forest in which I was uninvited,” depicts one account described as a ‘heavy feeling, like having to push through brush in a forest.’ Through experiences such as these, Griebel came to realize the two most commonly referenced sites of supernatural presence in the house were the staircase and two upstairs bedrooms. The rocking chair depicted in “Shadow-like things, out of the corner of my eye,” is a known fixture found in one of these bedrooms. Done in oil on paper, Griebel’s stylistic choice in using golden hues emulates the feeling of melancholy that many of the residents spoke of. Compositionally, the perspective of each work positions the viewer to feel as though we have suddenly come across the figures ourselves. Griebel achieves this through focussing his shadowed figures in full light, as if a door has swung open to reveal the unanticipated guests.  While many did not have such vivid experiences such as these, the consensus from Griebel’s correspondence was that the Macaulay House held an unnerving presence that left its residents tense.

To learn more about Jude Griebel, visit the artist’s website here.
For more information on KIAC residencies visit here

Artwork Wednesday: Landon Mackenzie

Artwork Wednesday: Landon Mackenzie

The Yukon Arts Centre would like to thank everyone who came out to celebrate the opening of Jim Robb’s Yukon and Locate: YAC Collection. The large turnout was a great testament to our community’s support and we could not be more grateful. In honour of the exciting showcase, we will be featuring a different artwork each Wednesday on the YAC Blog. What better way to begin than Cluny II: An Anniversary of a Yukon Summer Solstice the featured work on Locate exhibition posters, by Landon Mackenzie. This work is a great example of what the YAC permanent collection has to offer in terms of diversity and Canadian art.

Mackenzie was a regular summer resident the Yukon from 1977- 1983, her early work reflects the sum of her northern experience while living in wall tents and exploring areas from Keno City to Beaufort Sea. With the territory as her muse, Mackenzie depicts the harmonious relationship between the theme of local wildlife and motherhood throughout her Cluny series. The series combines her northern inspiration with the name of her first child, Cluny. It was in the Yukon that Mackenzie first learnt she was pregnant and began to confront the notion of becoming a mother.

Amongst bold brushwork, animal motifs are abstracted in a primitive style that compliments the raw colour palette of earthy tones found throughout this piece. The large dark central figure depicts a mother with her crescent back encompassing her feeding young. Cluny II is described as a departure piece that deals with the trauma of labour and new motherhood, using the vocabulary of northern creatures. In addition, Mackenzie chooses to portray solstice through a large golden planetary form that floats amidst a vibrant midnight summer sky that is familiar in the Yukon. The combination of which is very evocative, both in artistry and in magnitude. Cluny II measures 7 x 14 ft. in size, submerging its viewer in Mackenzie’s powerful composition. While the artist had stretched smaller canvases beforehand, in the weeks following the birth of her first child,  Mackenzie decided the size was not large enough to adequately express her experiences and thus used a doubled canvas.

Landon Mackenzie is currently based out of British Columbia, where she teaches at Emily Carr University of Art and Design.  Mackenzie pursued her undergraduate degree at NSCAD (Halifax, Nova Scotia) and masters at Concordia (Montreal, Quebec).

Gallery Intern Gabriella stands next to Cluny II: An Anniversary of a Yukon Summer Solstice the large-scale work of Landon Mackenzie.


Landon Mackenzie
Cluny II: An Anniversary of a Yukon Summer Solstice, 1983
Acrylic on canvas