By Kirsti Salmi

Upon entering the Thunder Bay Art Gallery, art enthusiasts are welcomed to “see yourself here.” If regional representation is what we’re seeking, The North Now exhibition certainly provides a phenomenal reflection. The gallery’s commitment to promoting northern talent is certainly alive and well in this stunning showcase. 

The North Now boasts artistic input from Northwestern and Northeastern Ontario, broadening the scope of what is considered local art. Gallery curator Nadia Kurd reports that for the first juried show of emerging and established artists living and working in Northern Ontario, “108 artists submitted close to 300 works—a great response to our call.”

Attendees will find a vast array of chosen media addressing themes as diverse as the region itself. The North Now artists sketch mental health concerns, paint geographic and technologic isolation, meld Shakespearean and Japanese influence in stoneware, fashion textile and jingle dresses, sculpt wiry tarot prophecies, photograph celebratory postpartum portraits, meditate on loss in acetate and salvage from a house fire. 

Unsurprisingly, many of the artists draw on nature and wildlife as focal points, sometimes with conflicted impressions. Celeste Pedri-Spade’s “Generations of Perseverance” overlays portraits of her family with nature, conveying her “Ashniabekwe belief that the land will always reside within us.” Sam Shahasahabi’s “Neither, Nor Land,” juxtaposes gentle bird chirps and babbling brooks with images of the Sleeping Giant and falling bombs to demonstrate his immigrant experience, “detached from my past and far from settling.”

It is said that art detaches us from our familiar, everyday experience. We are distanced from what we know so that we may gain fresh perspective. The North Now takes the Gallery’s invitation to “see yourself here,” but suggests that we do so with tourist’s eyes. We find ourselves and our region, reimagined but instantly recognizable. 

The North Now runs until January 18.

Christian Chapman, 2014, Elvis Changing Into A '77 Ford Thunderbird, mixed media on canvas, 50 x 60" per panel (6 panels total)

Christian Chapman, 2014, Elvis Changing Into A ’77 Ford Thunderbird, mixed media on canvas, 50 x 60″ per panel (6 panels total)