Not all that long ago, the Yukon promoted itself to the world as Canada’s True North.
That was before it became Larger than Life, but after it tired of The Magic and the Mystery.
Although the Northwest Territories and Nunavut were a bit peeved when the Yukon first made the proclamation, the True North slogan stuck and went on to serve the territory well during its short tenure.
When coupled with the usual photographic suspects – dazzling northern lights draped against dark skies, happy huskies loping across snow-covered lakes, First Nation dancers turned out in brilliant regalia, spellbound hikers gazing out over lush river valleys – it packs a powerful punch.
Not only is the Yukon an exciting place of exceptional natural beauty, it’s the real deal.
The sun always shines. The sky is always blue. And the people always smile.
It’s a wonderful self-portrait.
The only problem: it’s not always true.
Just ask the poor sod who stumbles off the plane on a cold, rainy October day expecting to find Yutopia.
He may not realize he’s lucky to have landed at all or that the low-hanging clouds are a blessing in disguise, shielding him from the truth of the dreary grey/brown landscape that stretches into the beyond.
Or that the nasty wind which forces him to tuck head into chest is also protecting him from the sight of hungry men and women lining up outside the Salvation Army in downtown Whitehorse for a free, hot lunch.
He likely feels slightly betrayed, and who can blame him?
The Yukon firmly planted in his imagination by the promotional material doesn’t look anything like what he sees before him.
The myth versus the reality. And all that lies in the middle.
Of course, the enormous void between the two is not unique to the North, but in this land of extreme contrasts it seems to be more pronounced.
Which is why it was great to learn about a new art show designed to encourage more discussion of the issue.
Untrue North, which opened at the Yukon Arts Centre gallery this week, depicts the romantic beauty of the region and examines whether it is more culturally constructed than real.
Oddly enough, this attempt to “call out” the real North is bound to attract more visitors than any show that simply carried on the same old charade.
Who wants to go to another True North show when we all know it may be anything but?