By Stacey Hare Hodgins, Assistant to the Director, Thunder Bay Art Gallery

Unlike some visual arts, comic art is created with an audience already in mind. Despite that, it’s still somewhat rare to find it shown in a public art gallery. Thunder Bay Art Gallery is very proud to exhibit For Better or For Worse: The Comic Art of Lynn Johnston (organized by the Art Gallery of Sudbury) and UNCONSTRAINED: Comic Art by Five Emerging Artiststo showcase the work of Thunder Bay artists alongside that of a renowned comic artist.

UNCONSTRAINED features work by local artists Callen Banning, Andrew Dorland, Kyle Lees, Merk, and boy Roland. The exhibition title loosely references constrained comics, a type of comic involving a specific and purposely imposed limitation around which the artist must work. For this exhibition, no limitations were imposed: comic art serves as an intentionally broad theme encompassing artwork that reflects distinct styles and a diverse range of tools and techniques.

For Better or For Worse: The Comic Art of Lynn Johnston gives audiences of all ages a chance to explore this beloved artist’s impressive body of work beyond its syndication in newspapers. Johnston says that comic art is really about performance, about performing a story in a way that engages people. During a recent tour of her exhibition with a group of Grade 7 students in Thunder Bay, she talked about the importance of cultivating imagination—one’s own “fantasy world”—encouraging them to take full advantage of their youthful ability to dip in and out of those worlds with ease. Fortunately, artists who create comic art possess this same ability. Fulfilling an inherent desire to create, they dive deep into imaginary worlds, developing unique characters and translating them into compelling visual narratives. Though their approaches and mediums vary, the artists featured in UNCONSTRAINED are visual storytellers whose work is informed by a combination of what they already know and what they’ve imagined.

Join us on February 4 at 7:30 pm for the exhibition’s opening reception and panel discussion: A Conversation with the Artists of UNCONSTRAINED. Get a glimpse of Thunder Bay’s thriving comic art scene and meet some of the artists behind it.

UNCONSTRAINED: Comic Art by Five Emerging Artists and For Better or For Worse: The Comic Art of Lynn Johnston will be on exhibit from January 15–March 6 at the Thunder Bay Art Gallery.