Gerald Kuehl's Portraits of the North show, an impressive collection of detailed pencil drawings of First Nations, Metis and Inuit Elders of Northern Canada was on display at NorVA for the month of September. Happily, the impact of Kuehl's exhibit went far beyond our walls. Here, we reflect on some of the highlights of Kuehl's exhibit and his visit to Flin Flon, including a glimpse of the creative work produced by the local artists, musicians, students and writers who were inspired by Portraits of the North, and by Gerald Kuehl himself.
Missed the exhibit? View Kuehl's Portraits of the North website or check out our current exhibits.
Hapnot art students created portraits of elderly Flin Flon residents:
On October 26th, Karen Clark's grade 11 art students met fourteen Northern Lights Manor residents for a special art class at NorVA. After the visitors viewed the Portraits of the North exhibit, Karen paired each of her students with one of the Manor residents, and as the residents posed, the students drew their likenesses. While the art students gained a unique opportunity to work on their portraiture skills, the residents enjoyed meeting the young people and the novel experience of being an artist's subject. Many thanks to Jody Lyle and Sarah Trevor, who were instrumental in setting up this special event.
Gerald Kuehl shared his insights on the people behind the portraits:
Kuehl spoke with high school students from Cranberry Portage, Creighton and Hapnot, and, later, to the audience at Baker’s Narrows during Culture Days. later in the weekend, Kuehl remarked that he remembers the story of every single portrait he has drawn. Kuehl illustrated his talks with 6 portraits from the show and his presentations helped his listeners gain a broader understanding of the lives of the people he has so eloquently drawn.
Music, art, and storytelling combined on the final day of Culture Days:
Mark Kolt and Dave Gunn took the stage at NorVA with a guitar, keyboard, violin and a myriad of string instruments to add their own artistic interpretation to the exhibit. Members of the audience selected favourite pieces from the gallery, including several Portraits of the North, and the two musicians improvised pieces inspired by the selected works. Gerald Kuehl himself added another dimension to the performance, adding anecdotes about each portrait which the musicians interpreted.
Members of the Flin Flon Writers Guild found literary inspiration in the stories behind Kuehl's portraits: At a poetry reading at Bakers Narrows, Glenda Walker Hobbs shared her poem (below), which was inspired by Kuehl's portrait of Harriet Redhead. Please note that this piece is the poet's interpretation and is fictionalized.
Poem by Glenda Walker-Hobbs
grey hair parted in middle,
half-covered by babushka
tied under chin,
she squints at the light,
her seventy years have seen births
of her twelve children, deaths of five,
living in a remote community
means few medical services,
supplies brought in by air
or trucks on winter roads
her eyes remain steadfast,
her smile careworn,
anchor for her family,
her face: a map of life
Approximately 700 people viewed Portraits of the North at NorVA. This included 12 school visits, two of which included a portrait drawing class for Creighton and Ruth Betts Grade 5 and 6 students. The Portraits of the North exhibit was certainly a great success - not only in the number of visitors it brought to the centre, but in the artistic inspiration that it sparked in our community.