A man and a woman, both grey-haired, stand in front of the Montreal Forum with serious expressions on their face. The woman’s looking a little over to her left, while the man, holding a hockey stick, stares right ahead. The title of this painting? Canadiens Gothic. And it’s one of a new series of free-spirited paintings by artist Brandy Saturley.
The series, People of Canada, isn’t your traditional set of portraits. Saturley has asked Canadian “couples” — defined loosely as spouses, siblings, friends, or even a beloved pet and its owner — to send her “their best photos of themselves as citizens of Canada.” She makes selections from the submitted selfies and transposes them onto iconic Canadian scenery.
“When I was younger I was always drawing… I specifically loved to draw portraits. I was always fascinated with people; their mannerisms, their eyes, their unique beauty. When I began painting, I left portraits behind for a while and over the past few years I have returned to the faces that hold so much mystery.”
This project is about connecting to all Canadians
Enticed by the power of portraiture, Saturley wants to explore and showcase the rich diversity of Canadians through focussing on the relationships we have. When choosing which photo submissions to turn into paintings, she asks the subjects a series of questions.
“[I] find that their responses about one another often help fill out their personality,” she says, and it’s true: the portraits shine with a story of each pairing, their home, their landscape, and their passions, with warmth, occasional quirkiness and a great deal of character.
Take Futurebrights. Sadie and Sacha, 7 and 5, answered questions about a few of their favourite things (Lego, soccer, Captain Jack Sparrow), and Saturley fleshed out the portrait of the smiling kids on a Vermilion Lakes dock with these treasures.
With an initial goal of creating 20 portraits in total (six are complete so far), Saturley will be accepting submissions until the end of 2017 and may well surpass that goal as word of the project spreads.
“The beauty in creating new work is being open to the experiences, avenues and connections created; this thing just keeps on growing,” says Saturley.
For six years, Victoria-based Saturley has focussed her work on what she calls the “Canadian conscious” with exhibits such as #ICONICCANUCK, I See Mountains, and The 99 (99 Paintings for Canada). In fact, it was her travels exhibiting her artwork across Canada that inspired her to involve the public in the creation of People of Canada.
Saturley often tours her work — in 2017, her exhibit Canadianisms: A Five Year Retrospective Exhibition will be installed in Sherwood Park and Okotoks, Alta. — and she hopes to bring People of Canada, once complete, across the country.
“Perhaps it will have many homes over the years to come. I hope to tour it so that all the people who have taken the time to submit a photo will have the chance to come out and see the final exhibition,” says Saturley.
“This project is about connecting to all Canadians, no matter where they live [or] how they live.”
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