Romance. Peaceful times. The sound of her paddle stroking through clear water.
These are just a few of the memories that come to mind when Janice Tanton reflects on a childhood spent canoeing the lakes of Ontario. Yet, as much as the celebrated artist cherishes those times, she confesses that her relationship with the canoe is one of privilege.
“The canoe has a duality that mirrors Canada. It can represent cottage country and quiet recreational time on a lake. But there’s so much more: Without the canoe and Indigenous knowledge, Canada wouldn’t be where it is today,” says Tanton, who, 10 years ago, was adopted into the Treaty 7 Blackfoot Nation of Siksika where Elders have asked her to help bridge the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous cultures.
“I like to ask the question ‘What’s in your canoe?’ What baggage or gifts do you carry around with you?” she says, adding that she recently explored this theme as an artist-in-residence at the internationally acclaimed Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity. “Within this context, I like to explore the question ‘What is our responsibility, individually and collectively, around repairing Indigenous and non-Indigenous relations in this country?'”
Gibson Fine Art owner Patti Dibski (who represents the Canmore-based artist’s work in the Calgary market) says that when clients wander through her gallery and see Tanton’s paintings, they often stop in their tracks.
“Janice uses oils on a fine linen canvas — employing earthy, saturated colours. People are drawn to this. They’re also attracted to the stillness of her paintings,” says Dibski, who represents more than 40 Canadian artists. “I would say her work exudes a peaceful quality, but it can still challenge you given her interest in the implications of multicultural Canada on Indigenous life.“
According to Dibski, patrons can’t get enough of Tanton’s canoe paintings. “I can barely keep them in the gallery,” she says. “I don’t personally own one yet, but I hope to one day soon.”
— T&C Staff
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Founded by two Canucks on the loose in a big country, Toque & Canoe is an award-winning Canadian travel blog.