After a year that saw many people experiencing more of life from behind a computer screen, two new exhibitions at Art’s Underground invite viewers to consider the healing power of spending time in nature.
Natasha Henderson’s “Under the Yukon Sky” will be in the Focus Gallery from Aug. 6 to 28.
Henderson relocated to the Yukon in June 2020, moving across the country from Montreal to Dawson City in the midst of a global pandemic. Social distancing, quarantine and being in a new place brought plenty of time for reflection.
COVID-19 certainly had an effect on her work. In Montreal after lockdown, Henderson said she had trouble making art at all. Moving to the Yukon, she found her inspiration again.
“I wouldn’t have considered myself a landscape painter before this. But suddenly, [living here], how could you not?” she said. “We went on a walk after quarantine. And that was like this explosion of newness. Then I came to Dawson and [my creativity] just exploded.”
While the scenes are based on photographs and sketches made during her arrival in the Yukon, Henderson chose paint colours at random from a hat. One by one, she layered oil paint to depict the scenes that were inspiring her in the north: the result is moody Yukon landscapes with layered colours and big skies.
This random but deliberate decision was a reflection of a year when everyone was forced to “make lemonade out of lemons.”
“I really referred to the photos, but then I also delved into my feelings at the time. There’s a reference to how I felt when I was in that landscape. And so I think a lot of that actually did come through,” she said.
Northern art-making wasn’t without its challenges — Henderson had to switch to a different type of oil paint due to shipping the supplies in -40 C weather.
From Kwanlin/Miles Canyon to Whitehorse streetscapes, the midnight dome to the path, tree stands of birch and the Yukon River, Henderson said she hopes viewers will “discover new things about familiar places.”
Next door in the Edge Gallery, Bronwen Duncan’s “The Nature of Joy” is also on display from Aug. 6 to 28. Her work also features familiar Yukon sights – including bears, herons, bees and flowers – but she paints with wool instead of oil.
Duncan is a textile artist who uses wet-felting and needle-felting techniques to incorporate motion and 3D texture into her colourful works reflecting nature.
She said she hopes her work will inspire breaks from the computer screen – whether it’s a reminder to get outside and learn from nature, or to pursue art-making.
“When immersed in natural space, I feel a piece of life’s puzzle slip into place,” she explained in her artist’s statement. “Too many of us forget joy. We run against the clock, we enact our roles, we feel helpless against a world that seems to be going wrong.”
The animals in Duncan’s work – from the shimmering salmon to the tiny mouse – are experts at living in the moment, she explains.
“We need to focus on joy, we need to be able to live our lives fully. Because why are we here? We’re not here to look at computers and get depressed. We’re here to live our lives fully. And the animals and the plants have got that figured out a lot better than us,” she said.
Contact Haley Ritchie at firstname.lastname@example.org