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From Many Peoples Strength | Humboldt Magnussen | Gallery 2

March 6th - April 17th, 2014

Humboldt Magnussen, Float, oil on canvas, 46.25 x 48.75 x 1.5, 2011.

Rural Saskatchewan-raised artist Humboldt Magnussen uses patriotic symbols of Canadian and Saskatchewan identity to create visual narratives that express the myriad challenges and rewards of living in socius. The province’s official motto, from many peoples, strength (from the Latin multis e gentibus vires) provides ample context for the artist’s explorations. This motto expresses Saskatchewan’s multicultural heritage and extols the pragmatic benefits of diversity and group identification. But while it expresses exemplary sentiments, it is neither wholly accurate nor wholly benign. It belongs to the realm of myth.

Magnussen’s work reframes these mythic images and statements through a lens more personal than ideological. His primary subject is the Woodland Caribou, and the Western Red (Prairie) Lily, Saskatchewan’s floral emblem. Growing up in a place where hunting was a rite of passage and a mark of masculinity, Magnussen has seen caribou, albeit most frequently in the form of mounted trophy heads in the homes of friends and family. Not a hunter himself, Magnussen felt a natural affinity for this vulnerable animal. Magnussen’s caribou are far from iconic or idealized. They are a charming, somewhat disheveled herd, with individual figures representing the artist and those close to him. Like humans, caribou are social creatures, and Magnussen draws upon a rich tradition of anthropomorphism in folk storytelling, using these figures to tell stories of community-building, interdependency and coexistence.

Other works evoke a sense of home and displacement, with antlers becoming roots and roots producing lilies in bloom. Some figures are literally deconstructed, limbs separated from torsos, with sprays of lilies erupting from the wounds. Other works depict the precariousness of formed communities. The figures in Windchime, for example, include robust and healthy-looking caribou, a limbless, bandaged figure, tiny babies, rhizomatic clusters of antlers, disembodied hooves, eyeless trophy mounts, prairie flowers, and rough-hewn branches and bundles of sticks, all suspended on delicate threads that tenuously bind them together.

- from a text by Blair Fornwald, BFA, MFA

Organized by the Organization of Saskatchewan Arts Councils (OSAC)

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