Story By Marcia Arpin
Local artist Janet Hannam has spent more than a decade tending to the art pieces to be on display at the Thunder Bay Museum—a collection that features 17 extremely detailed exhibits and 49 masterly crafted figures featuring the people, culture, and traditions that make our region magical.
The journey for Hannam began when she received an Ontario Arts Council grant to develop an art piece as a testimony to why she moved to Thunder Bay from Toronto. With a desire to express why she loves the region, Hannam was motivated to develop the dolls to illustrate why she lives here and would never consider another place as home. Mentored by people in our community and influenced by their culture and traditions, she has modelled each figure to tell a story.
Modelled with paper clay and assembled with a variety of found, recycled, and natural material, each detail is purposefully created to illustrate each figure’s story. The figures range in size from 9 to 26 inches. One figure, “Loon,” is a Métis paddler with the black and white necklace of a loon, as well as a sharp beak to fish with. However there will be no fishing, as the accompanying story goes on to describe the happy fish jumping for flies around him as he heads south with 60-pound packs of furs. The paddler’s blanket and overturned canoe will be his shelter when he tires. The moon is his companion as he paddles through the calm evening.
Prior to the collection being acquired by the Thunder Bay Museum, the dolls were a part of travelling exhibit to eight museums, including locations in Ottawa and Kingston. Hannam hoped each visitor would take time to appreciate the wholeness of the figurative art. And indeed, the dolls educated, entertained, and expanded visitors’ knowledge of the geography and history of northern Ontario.
Inspired by the feedback from this travelling exhibit, each of the doll’s stories is now being published into a book to accompany the local exhibition. In partnership with Michael deJong of the Thunder Bay Museum and photographer Meghan Hannam-Arpin, Hannam fills the pages of this book with stories as an artist and ambassador of the region. The text will also give the reader a glimpse on how each figure was made.
Hannam’s work will be displayed at Thunder Bay Museum from November 6, 2018 to March 3, 2019.