All Canadian Art Gallery coming to NSCAD

NSCAD University student Hannah Genosko works on a silkscreen. Photo: Ben Cousins

Merle Harley and Elyse Moir are patriotic Canadians.

That’s why, for one of their courses at NSCAD University, they decided to create more than a dozen silk screen designs of iconic national images – from depictions of Mounties to images of the Canadian landscape.

Almost a year later, Harley and Moir turned a class project into a passion project.

They hosted an art exhibit entitled A Strong Canada as undergraduate curators. The gallery ran at NSCAD’s Anna Leonowens Gallery until Nov. 1.

“It’s kind of about Canadianisms and Canadiana and different ideas around what it means to be Canadian: what are Canadian icons, what are some of the darker aspects of those that people don’t really talk about,” says Harley.

This time, the art was not only from Harley and Moir. Contributions were open to the public.

“We made an open call for submissions. There were certain people that we invited to do it, but it was available to anyone, not necessarily inside of NSCAD,” says Moir.

This led to a collection from 16 contributors from a variety of backgrounds, from as far away as Ontario and even the United States.

Artists were asked to think of the phrase “ a strong Canada” when designing their piece.

“The ‘A Strong Canada’ name actually comes from the podium where Stephen Harper has been talking for a lot of the military things … on the front of his podium it says ‘A Strong Canada’ across it, which we thought kind of bizarre. What other nation would really do that?” says Harley.

The result was a variety of pieces, from polar bears to political stances on Quebec separation to hockey.

Most of the pieces were silk screens, a process that involves rubbing paint through a screen and onto a surface of paper or fabric.

Hannah Genosko, a NSCAD student, chose to depict Metis leader Louis Riel, who led two nineteenth-century uprisings against the Canadian government.

He is shown in the middle of a white canvas with a halo of flowers above his head.

It’s her way of questioning the way society looks at Riel.

“It’s a delicate way of talking about something is sort of a very bloody violent history,” says Genosko.

Dan O’Neill, a professor at NSCAD, offered an image of the Quebec flag with the top corner painted red, instead of the traditional blue.

“It’s really in sympathy based on the student protests about the increases of tuition and other particular concerns they had, I used the red square as a symbol of that,” says O’Neill.

Harley and Moir are working on plans to mount the show at other venues, in Halifax and elsewhere.

“We’ve applied for a show in Newfoundland, so basically we’re trying to just get it out there.”