YellowknifeNOW!, an eight-artist show, opened in Yellowknife’s visitor centre art gallery on Friday and will remain on display until mid-February.
Gallery curator Sarah Swan said the show was designed to represent artists in the city who create unique artwork that often goes unseen. “It’s artwork that’s not necessarily made to sell,” Swan explained.
“Some people might want to buy it, but it’s not made with that purpose in mind.
“There are so many artists with a unique vision in the city that, because we haven’t had the place to show the work, a lot of Yellowknifers aren’t aware of.”
YellowknifeNOW! offers what Swan described as traditional paintings with a twist alongside photographs, large drawings and three-dimensional pieces.
“Sometimes we can pigeonhole ourselves as a small arts community. We have stereotypes of what northern art is,” said Swan.
“It’s all northern lights and ravens and houseboats – and I do think those are worthy subjects for art, don’t get me wrong – but there’s more to be said.
“There’s more to explore creatively than just those things about Yellowknife and about living here, and that’s why these artists were chosen.”
Mike Mitchell, co-owner of Sapsucker Birch Syrup Company, is known in the city’s art community for witty art made with scrap wood. One of his pieces at YellowknifeNOW! features a hot-dog machine made entirely from wood.
Mitchell says the motivation behind his piece was spite.
He applied to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council to be a hot dog ambassador, he said. Once his application was denied, he made the wooden machine to prove a point.
“I’m bitter. I wrote a hot dog essay explaining why I should be a hot dog ambassador. I make wooden hot dogs all the time, but they ghosted me,” he told Cabin Radio.
“That, and I really like hot dogs. Everyone who knows me knows how much I like hot dogs, and how much I like wood, so the confluence of the two passions came into this 1:1-scale hot-dog machine.
“I want the council to see what they’re missing out on.”
This show marks the first time Mitchell’s art has been featured in a gallery, something he says he never considered a possibility. After 20 years of making birch syrup, and with a strong love for trees, he spent the past year delving into his artistic side with the use of wood.
“I’ve never really even considered myself capable of making art before. I don’t know if I consider this art,” said Mitchell.
“When I came to install things the other day, I had this shit-eating grin on my face, I was so happy. I can’t really explain it, but I worked so hard on this box made out of plywood and it all came together.
“I feel so happy to see it in a group show like this. I feel really proud.”
‘Really boring’ places in focus
Another crowdpleaser at Friday’s opening? Bob Wilson’s photo series of different spaces in Yellowknife.
Featuring what Swan described as “really boring places,” Wilson says the mundanity of the spaces interested him.
“They are spaces that people move through or spend an hour or two in,” explained Wilson.
“They’re forgotten spaces that people don’t pay much attention to.”
Wilson, a photographer since the late 1970s, says he likes “the mood that comes when looking at something that you don’t normally spend time looking at.”
“Photography has a way of crystallizing that,” he said, “for both the photographer and the people that look at them.”
The show also includes work by Terry Pamplin, Darrell Chocolate, Nick MacIntosh, Sami Blanco and Ashley Daw, Henry Cutler and Angus Beaulieu.
YellowknifeNOW! will appear at the visitor centre’s art gallery for the next six weeks. The gallery is open from 10am to 6pm Monday through Saturday and 10am-5pm on Sundays.