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Whitehorse resident excited after selection as Yukon Prize finalist

The award recognizes visual artsists in the territory and promotes the visual arts community
Alainnah Whachell’s work titled: “Add to Bag: Seed beads, nylon thread, 2015, 8.5 x 9.5” was one of the first beaded screenshots and from an online site Totokaelo (Courtesy/Alainnah Whachell)

Alainnah Whachell, a Whitehorse-based visual artist is elated to be selected as a finalist for the 2023 Yukon Prize for Visual Arts.

Whachell is one of the six shortlisted artists who were announced as finalists on June 14.

The other finalists are Whitehorse resident Omar Reyna, Selkirk First Nation citizen Kaylyn Baker, Dawson City residents Jeffrey Langille and Rebekah Miller, and Cole Pauls, a Champagne and Aishihik First Nations citizen and Tahltan member who lives in Vancouver.

Whachell told the News that being a Yukon Prize finalist is exciting and “feels great to be recognized and to have this opportunity.”

“I don’t have many opportunities to show my work, and especially to an outside audience, so I am very grateful for this experience,” she said. “It is validating too, that all my time in my studio working on artwork is going toward something I can share with others. All to say the experience has been very rewarding.”

Whachell said the fashion-inspired work conceptually started from the relics of a work she was not able to make amid her move back to the Yukon due to hindrances associated with resources and space.

“That work was using fashion advertisements and making them into plaster casts,” she said. “I became very interested in how fashion magazines were a dying cultural text, at this point I was also working at a newspaper in advertising, so I was witnessing the start of the decay of print as an advertising medium.”

She said she was also noticing how Instagram was becoming a platform for commerce. At that time it seemed slightly unorthodox and felt outside of a structured regulated system.

“Then I started thinking about Instagram feeds being replacements for fashion advertisements, which then made me think about the ephemeral nature of the visual online experience,” she said.

Whachell explained her work’s ideation to the News and the aesthetic concepts behind it.

“So making the work hit a few spots which include being tactile or having a sculptural background and this was important,” she said.

She said preserving ephemeral experiences is a common thread through her work.

“I made the plaster advertisements as a way to preserve this visual language. The beaded work is similar because it preserves a screen presence, a virtual image made into a fabric,” she said, noting that making the beaded work gave her other levels of interest.

“For one, it takes a very long time to make, which was new to me as I was used to using materials that are mixed and set (plaster, concrete, resin) all materials where you have a shorter working time,” she said.

Whachell said using beads was like a meditation. It was comforting building up the work one bead at a time.

“I saw the work like a printing of my desire for these images, and in a way making the work, I’m the one that is exploited and the work itself fulfills my desire; rather than being the consumer and trapped in a buying cycle. I am thinking about a psychological/economical structure and trying to deconstruct them.”

Asked about future plans, she said it would be to continue making artwork and experimenting with ideas.

“Maybe invest in a kiln. I have a few new projects that I’d like to start this winter. I’d like to set up my studio a bit more to be productive for the work I want to make and try to show outside of the Yukon,” she said.

The Yukon Prize for Visual Arts is privately sponsored and is a partnership of co-founders Julie Jai and David Trick, the Yukon Arts Foundation, the Yukon Arts Centre, and a dedicated team of volunteers.

The biennial award recognizes excellence by Yukon visual artists and is intended to be a catalyst for the promotion of Yukon visual arts and to inspire connections between Yukon artists and the visual arts community in the rest of Canada.

The $20,000 prize is given to one Yukon artist to help them focus full-time on creating art. Five other finalists will receive $3,000 each.

Organizers of the Yukon Prize said more than 60 Yukon artists applied in an open competition that closed on Feb. 28.

A prize ceremony will take place from Sept. 14 to 17 in Whitehorse. It will coincide with the opening of a curated exhibition of the finalists’ work at the Yukon Arts Centre. A gala event to announce the recipient of the Yukon Prize and celebrate Yukon visual arts is planned for Sept. 16.

The first Yukon Prize for Visual Arts was offered in 2021 and the recipient was Joseph Tisiga.

“It can just take a single spark. Yet that spark needs to come from somewhere. These sparks auger extraordinary things, ignite inspiration and personal and community feelings of validation and support and even build legacies,” said Duncan Sinclair, Yukon Prize Committee member.

“This is a volunteer-led, privately funded initiative serving our visual arts community throughout the territory. And others are getting on board in the spirit of Yukon. There is so much to share. So much can and will come of this,” he said.

Yukon Arts Centre chief executive Casey Prescott said seeing the reach and impact of the Yukon Prize continue to grow creates valuable visibility for the Yukon.

He said the finalists for the second edition of the award continue to showcase the very best of Yukon visual arts.

Contact Patrick Egwu at

Patrick Egwu

About the Author: Patrick Egwu

I’m one of the newest additions at Yukon News where I have been writing about a range of issues — politics, sports, health, environment and other developments in the territory.
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