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Local artists capture subtle side of northern beauty

Elise Bousquet and Shelley MacDonald were first brought together by a local soccer team. Now, years later, they've been reunited by art.

Elise Bousquet and Shelley MacDonald were first brought together by a local soccer team. Now, years later, they’ve been reunited by art.

The duo are sharing space at Arts Underground, in the Focus Gallery, with Frondescence, a show of fine art and jewelry.

Both Bousquet and MacDonald are influenced heavily by the Yukon landscape, their pieces drawn from the pull of nature and the intricacies found in the North.

Bousquet, a born and raised Yukoner, stood surrounded by her paintings last week, preparing the space for the show that opened on Friday, June 6.

She points to one painting, a stream running off the Dempster Highway, and says “the Dempster is known for its big mountains but I was more interested in the little things. Not necessarily the mountain landscapes but more details within nature - the leaves, the foliage, what’s on the ground.”

The stream, running down Hart River Road, would be easy to miss while travelling the highway, but Bousquet captures its fine details, making something subtle and small seem powerful and pulling the viewer into the piece.

Bousquet’s journey into art began with a fascination with children’s illustration books, which grew into amateur naturalism and forged a relationship with nature. She’s still evolving as an artist but the themes remain similar: the fine details that can be lost in the North’s vast, often overpowering landscapes.

“I think you can find more interesting details in that aspect of nature,” she says. “A lot of it is very unique, you walk down a trail and find different plants, there’s a diversity on the ground floor that isn’t in the mountains.”

Bousquet’s paintings are scenes where she finds comfort and places she returns to often. “A lot of it is familiarity,” she says. “It’s places I find soothing and I try to convey that.”

Similarly, MacDonald uses the vibrancy of the North, the landscapes and the wildlife, as influence for her jewelry.

Having originally moved to Carmacks for a three-month work contract, she’s now in her third year of Yukon living. She understands the love people feel for the natural elements of the North and how they can be captured by it. She wants her jewelry line to offer that same feeling.

She twirls a silver ring around in her palm, the sides of the ring carved to represent mountains, a labradorite stone in the middle shining like the northern lights, a kaleidoscope of green and blue hues.

MacDonald originally attended the revered Nova Scotia College of Art and Design University for fine art but while taking a course in jewelry her teacher pulled her aside and told her “this is where you’re meant to be.”

“I really like the attention to detail,” she says of the time spent working on her craft.

“It’s so meticulous, and I enjoy working with my hands. The hours pass by and it seems like an hour.”

MacDonald is so dedicated to her pursuit that she often works into the wee hours of the morning, creating art in the silence and stillness of the night. Not long ago, she became so engrossed with a piece - a miniature cast of a moosehead - that she worked on it for 12 hours straight.

The time spent working, hunched over, ended up sending her the hospital with an injury to her tailbone. She laughs about it now and dismisses it as a small price to pay for the gift of filling her time with her passion.

Her pieces hang from antlers, or rest against wooden displays. The antlers were gathered by a Carmacks resident, and spraypainted black by MacDonald, the silver and stones popping in contrast.

A silver ring, coated by a whirl of fox fur, hangs at the end of one. Next to it, the moosehead is bathed in the gold light of the gallery.

“Sometimes people take nature for granted,” she says, “and we live in such a beautiful country. I want to show it through my art.”

Frondescence will continue at Arts Underground until June 28.

Contact Sam Riches at