Much ado at Tuktu

There’s a new byword for “busy”. It is Polish in origin and spelled M-a-j-i-s-k-i. Incidentally, the unusual word is a surname…

There’s a new byword for “busy”.

It is Polish in origin and spelled M-a-j-i-s-k-i.

Incidentally, the unusual word is a surname belonging to just one Yukoner — Joyce Majiski, a printmaker and mixed media artist well known for her caribou images.

Majiski is exceptionally busy these days, in a “never-rains-but-pours” kind of way.

At present, she is in the throes of hosting a series of four, 20-hour workshops on printmaking techniques.

She has been organizing and preparing for these workshops for nearly a year, recruiting instructional talent from Dawson City, Vancouver, Alaska and Spain.

The first session, which kicked off two weekends ago, focused on printmaking basics for the beginner.

Altogether Majiski created spots for 40 participants — 10 per weekend. To her relief and delight, the workshops not only filled up, they were over-subscribed.

Over the summer, Majiski pushed to have her new studio in Golden Horn subdivision ready and outfitted in time for the September workshops.

One of her many tasks in July was to pour a concrete apron in front of the studio’s double doors to prepare for the arrival of a 900-kilogram printing press.

As the concrete was setting, Majiski’s artistic impulses kicked into gear and she embellished the otherwise mundane surface with rock inlays.

And 100 metres away, there are similar artistic flourishes in the masonry, tiling, woodwork and landscaping of her cozy log cabin.

“Everything I do, it seems, is an art project,” says Majiski.

“In building my home and studio, I have tried to use materials at hand that I’ve gathered over the years in a creative and playful way,” she notes.

“This is in keeping with the sort of spontaneity that happens during the printmaking process.”

This month’s debut of Majiski’s Tuktu (Caribou) Studio is marked not only by a cornucopia of printmaking instruction, but the opening, on September 6th, of an international art exhibition.

Through her connection with Peter Braune of Vancouver, one of the workshop instructors, Majiski arranged to be one of three hosts of the fourth Biennial International Miniature Print Exhibition.

Until this year, the juried exhibition has only been mounted in Vancouver.

The special viewing for Yukoners attracted more than 80 art patrons, whose vehicles stretched out along the gravel shoulders of Venus Place road for several hours last Wednesday night.

Majiski’s guests were rewarded with the unique opportunity to see more than 100 limited-edition prints by world-class artists hailing from nations near and far, including Japan, Finland, Romania and Israel.

The printmaking techniques encompassed by the collection ranged from the somewhat familiar (etchings, lino cuts and dry points), to the downright esoteric (collographs, mezzotints and waterless lithography).

Majiski plans to have one more open house for the exhibition before the show is packed up for good in the last week of September, and the unsold prints returned by Braune to their creators.

The final Tuktu Studio workshop this month will be co-instructed by Majiski and two master printmakers from Spain, Jordi Roses and Pilar Lloret. Their students will learn monoprinting techniques, and how to make and print carborundum plates.

When that session wraps up on September 24th, the three artists will head north to Dawson City to install an exhibition opening Thursday, September 28th, at the ODD Gallery.

Entitled Transmigrations, the exhibition will unveil new, large-format monoprints by Majiski, including two collaborations with Roses.

She began working on the show in 2005, in Vancouver, at the same time she was creating her Winging North installation of etched copper birds for the Canada Games Centre in Whitehorse.

In a stroke of creative genius, Majiski inked up several of the birds and used them as printing plates before committing them to the multiplex installation.

She continued work on her monoprints in Spain last winter as a guest artist at her colleagues’ printmaking shop located an hour north of Barcelona. She arrived there in January with 13 works-in-progress rolled up in a tube, each about two-and-a-half metres in length.

The works were finalized back home in the Yukon over the spring and summer.

Half of the series will be unveiled in Dawson at the end of the month, and the other half will make their debut at a separate exhibition this October in Point Reyes, California.

The entire series focuses on themes of migration, movement and mapping.

The seven monoprints selected for the Dawson exhibition abound with imagery of human transience and navigation, while the six works destined for California are layered with bird imagery and references to natural cycles. All are evoked in rich and multi-layered earth tones of cobalt, ochre, umber and sienna.

Despite the migration theme of Majiski’s forthcoming exhibits, not a single caribou or caribou track will make an appearance. That doesn’t mean that Majiski has forgotten about her favourite ungulate.

While in Spain, she developed four new etchings of caribou and one of an ammonite shell, printed in limited editions of 20. Ten prints of each edition remain with the Spanish printers as payment for their shop services and the other ten are Majiski’s to sell.

Before she heads to California in the third week of October to install part two of her monoprint series, Majiski has yet another important engagement.

The Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies in Banff, Alberta, has invited Majiski to mount her mixed media installation Inner Spaces/Outer Places in tandem with its exhibition celebrating the100th Anniversary of the Alpine Club of Canada.

The joint show opens October 13th and continues to the end of January 2007.

This invitation is an exciting opportunity for Majiski, even though she has already exhibited the show four times starting at the Yukon Arts Centre Gallery in 2001.

After the Banff opening and the one to follow in California, Majiski is planning some down time to recharge her batteries. There’s been almost too much ado, and to do, at Tuktu Studio.

“My life has been pretty focused over the last couple of years. I’ve enjoyed the intensity, but I am looking forward to a bit of reflective time,” she says cheerfully.

She’s not exactly sure what she’ll be charging her batteries for. That’s something the time set aside for reflection will hopefully reveal.

“I’ll be taking a deep breath and deciding what the next big project will be.”

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