Kon’ gu (fireweed) artwork by Julaine Debogorski, an artist originally from the Northwest Territories who now lives in Dawson. <em>Plant Encounters</em> is an online-accessible project that focuses on the Ninth Avenue Trail and explores relationships to plants and place through dance, visual art and writing. (Submitted/Devon Berquist)

Kon’ gu (fireweed) artwork by Julaine Debogorski, an artist originally from the Northwest Territories who now lives in Dawson. Plant Encounters is an online-accessible project that focuses on the Ninth Avenue Trail and explores relationships to plants and place through dance, visual art and writing. (Submitted/Devon Berquist)

Dawson-based artist collective launches artistic field guide that explores Yukon plants

Plant Encounters includes visual art, dance, writing and poetry and is entirely accessible online

Do you have any plants you would consider old friends?

They may not be conventional conversationalists, but this summer artists spent time with more than 30 Dawson-area species to explore their meaning in art. The result is Plant Encounters — an online-accessible project that focuses on the Ninth Avenue Trail and explores our relationship to plants and place through dance, visual art and writing.

In May 2020, Dawson artists Bo Yeung, Georgia Hammond and Meg Walker came together to form the Long Walk Collective.

With a grant from the Yukon government they put out a call for artists interested in making works linked to a specific plant found along trails outside of Dawson City.

The result is an online project that showcases the work of over 30 artists. Each piece was made as a meditation on a specific species, including Lähdzit nänkäk (northern ground cone), Ëläk’ày’ (Labrador tea), Ts’o_̀k (black spruce) and yarrow.

The collective worked with Georgette McLeod of the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in Language and Heritage Department to incorporate Hän language in the names of the plants.

Plant Encounters submissions from Jackie Olson created with Kʼàyʼ (willow). (Submitted)

“You could look at it as a different kind of field guide. It just kept evolving and changing. And the three of us are just so excited to see what came through because it was a very open project,” Walker said.

There was no limit on mediums used. While two artists created a dance pieces, others used painting, staining, 3D animation, sculpture, collage, writing and poetry to express their connections with each plant.

“If you find a familiar plant in an area new to you, it’s like finding an old friend, which is a phrase that (artist) Rian Lougheed-Smith used in her writing, which is about pineapple weed. She called it in her subtitle a ‘common friend.’ It’s such a great way to explain that feeling,” Walker said.

The format of the project, which involved many artists, was also a good way to make sure artists were able to receive funding during the financial challenges of the COVID-19 summer.

Julaine Debogorski, an artist originally from the Northwest Territories who now lives in Dawson, was paired with the Kon’ gu (fireweed).

Her submission is composed of a number of individual pieces — using watercolour, ink prints, text, burned wood and a drawing and painting that incorporated the leaves of the plant.

Debogorski lost her brother to a house fire and said morel mushrooms and fireweeds have been powerful symbols of things that grow after devastation.

“Though it’s sad to think about all the wildlife and the plants that have died, look what’s growing now. The fireweed pops up and all of a sudden there’s this huge splash of colour among a black landscape, what I call a skeleton forest.”

“I’m away from home and I’m probably going to be away from home for a while. Sometimes when you’re away from the place, you start to worry, ‘Oh, am I losing the memory of that person?’ But when I can do these pieces of work it brings me right back. I’ll never lose that feeling,” Debogorski said.

Debogorski said she used Plant Encounters as an outlet to play and experiment with different methods of art, including burning into wood. Not all her experiments ended up in the final work.

“It was a really great part of my summer, a portion of time where I was just creating for the fun of it,” she said.

Artists Michael MacLean and Nate Jones collaborated to create a piece on Kinnikinnick (bearberry) that combines photography with 3D modeling.

The result of their efforts is a “digital sculpture” that was carefully created from photos. While only one photo is present in the final work, it took dozens to capture the necessary detail.

Inchǫ’ (wild rose) creation by Helen O’Connor for the Plant Encounters online project in Dawson City. (Submitted)

“It was a process of looking closely,” MacLean said.

While Jones took photos of the plant from multiple angles in Dawson, MacLean was stranded by COVID-19 in Halifax and unable to visit friends and familiar places in the Yukon.

“In some sense it makes me miss the place, the natural world, the Ninth Avenue Trail and those types of things, but because it was also a collaboration working with another artist, I also miss the sense of community around art.

“I find it hard to keep in touch with place and people and friends. But having something to work on like this is kind of exciting because then you have conversations and a way in which you can keep in touch through a project,” he said.

All 30 projects that form the Plant Encounters experience are available to view online at longwalkcollective.org. The website, designed by Jenna Roebuck, functions as a digital gallery.

Visitors can choose to navigate the project by a digital version of the trail, by the pictures of plants or by the names of the artists involved. Next season, after COVID-19 dies down, the collective is hoping there will be a way to also involve the art project on the trail.

“For me the project is a really interesting way to both experience art and experience nature. It’s kind of a beautiful collage, and an attempt to understand a sense of place,” MacLean said.

Contact Haley Ritchie at haley.ritchie@yukon-news.com

Dawson City

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Dr. Brendan Hanley, Yukon’s chief medical officer of health, speaks to media at a press conference about COVID-19 in Whitehorse on March 30. The Yukon government announced three new cases of COVID-19 in Watson Lake on Oct. 23. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Three new COVID-19 cases identified in Watson Lake

The Yukon government has identified three locations in town where public exposure may have occurred

A pedestrian passes by an offsales sandwich board along Fourth Avenue in Whitehorse on Oct. 22. NDP MLA Liz Hanson raised concerns Oct. 21 in the legislature about increased hospitalizations due to alcohol consumption that correlate with an extension in the hours alcohol can be sold in the territory. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Alcohol-related hospitalizations rise after off-sales hours extended

Reduced hours for off-sale liquor establishments likely part of Liquor Act spring reforms

Tourism and Culture Minister Jeanie McLean (formerly Dendys) speaks during legislative assembly in Whitehorse on Nov. 27, 2017. The Yukon government has announced $2.8 million in tourism relief funding aimed at businesses in the accommodation sector that have already maxed out existing funds. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Tourism relief funding offers $2.8 million to hotels and overnight accommodations

$15 million in relief funding is planned for the tourism sector over the next three years

The Whitehorse sewage lagoons photographed in 2011. With new regulations for wastewater anticipated to be introduced by the federal government within the next decade, the City of Whitehorse may soon be doing some prep work by looking at exactly what type of pollutants are making their way into the city’s wastewater. (Ian Stewart/Yukon News file)
Pondering pollutants

City could spend $70,000 looking at what contaminents are in waste water

Most of Whitehorse Individual Learning Centre’s class of 2020 graduates. The former students were welcomed back and honoured by staff at the school on Oct. 14 with a personalized grad ceremony for each graduate. (Submitted)
Individual Learning Centre grads honoured

Members of the Whitehorse Individual Learning Centre’s class of 2020 were welcomed… Continue reading

Benjamin Munn, 12, watches the HPV vaccine in 2013. Beginning Jan. 1, 2021, the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine will be available to all Yukoners up to, and including, age 26. Currently the program is only available to girls ages nine to 18 and boys ages nine to 14. (Dan Bates/Black Press file)
HPV vaccine will be available to Yukoners up to, including, age 26

Beginning Jan. 1, 2021, the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine will be available… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

COMMENTARY: Me and systemic racism

The view from a place of privilege

Today’s mailbox: Electricity and air travel

Letters to the editor published Oct. 23, 2020

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: Irony versus Climate

Lately it seems like Irony has taken over as Editor-in-Chief at media… Continue reading

Evan Lafreniere races downhill during the U Kon Echelon Halloweeny Cross-Country Race on Oct. 16. (Inara Barker/Submitted)
Costumed bike race marks end of season

The U Kon Echelon Bike Club hosted its final race of the… Continue reading

Smartphone showing various applications to social media services and Google. (Pixabay photo)
National media calling for level playing field with Google, Facebook

In Canada, Google and Facebook control 80 per cent of all online advertising revenues

Education Minister Tracy-Anne McPhee, right, before question period at the Yukon legislative assembly in Whitehorse on March 7, 2019. The Yukon government announced Oct. 19 it has increased the honoraria rates for school council members. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Honoraria increased for school council members

Members of school councils throughout the territory could soon receive an increased… Continue reading

Most Read