Flirting With Disaster

The irresistible drama of TV plane crash recreations

IT WAS NOT A SINGLE HORRIBLE INCIDENT that triggered my fear of flying. It was a gradual accumulation of minor uncomfortable episodes that have cured over time to become a stiff, immovable anxiety. While working out of Yellowknife as a journalist, there were too many unsettling Arctic flights, bumping through thick weather, or onto crude gravel runways. There was an attempted landing through a thunderstorm in Montreal, when I pressed my face into the chest of my blessedly calm seatmate, who cradled me as we were tossed around inside black clouds before detouring to Ottawa. There was an overseas flight that made an emergency landing in Goose Bay, Newfoundland, after a chemical odour filled the cabin. (We later learned that a passenger had spat medicated mouthwash into the lavatory sink, and the fumes had seeped into the ventilation system.) Add to this that I come from a family of worriers, who have handed down an alarmist mentality with a default setting to worst case. Continue reading

The Rise and Fall of Annie Pootoogook

She shot to fame, then vanished just as quickly. What happened to Nunavut’s greatest modern artist ?

MY SEARCH FOR ANNIE POOTOOGOOK begins at Feheley Fine Arts, an elegant red-brick gallery in downtown Toronto that deals in high-end Inuit art. The owner, Patricia Feheley, is a veteran in this business. Slight and stylish, she has the refined air you’d expect of a gallery owner. She became one of Pootoogook’s most fervent champions as soon as she laid eyes on the artist’s ink-and-crayon drawings in Cape Dorset more than a decade ago. She recalls going “absolutely crazy” for them: “It was the base honesty. She was drawing exactly what she wanted; she didn’t care what other people were doing.” The images offered a blunt, sometimes jarring, portrayal of modern life in an Arctic settlement: Ski-Doos and Coleman stoves, TV and sex, alcohol and domestic abuse. The style was fresh, uninhibited, modern. There were no dancing bears; none of the trite themes that the Inuit art industry has long relied on. Giddy with her discovery, Feheley left Cape Dorset with half-a-dozen of Pootoogook’s drawings, which she showed in an exhibition called “The Unexpected.” The pictures were a hit and all of them sold. Over the next few years, Pootoogook’s work would catch the eye of the contemporary art world and rocket the young artist to fame. Continue reading

Artcirq: An Arctic Circus

Why a Francophone circus performer moved to Igloolik, Nunavut to build a troupe at the top of the world

IGLOOLIK’S COMMUNITY POOL IS A CONCRETE PIT littered with lumber scraps and a peculiar number of legless foosball tables. It has the chilled air of a cellar and the oppressive lights of a prison. It also happens to be the only place for circus practice. The instructor is 36-year-old Guillaume Saladin, a francophone acrobat who is flitting around the pool with the haste of someone unprepared for guests. Still in his coat, he kicks aside rubble to make room for a few battered gym-mats. Continue reading

Folk (Rock) Hero

NWT’s music darling Leela Gilday talks about her new album, winning a Juno, and the perks and perils of being an aboriginal artist

ON A COOL NIGHT AT A PUB IN HANOI, VIETNAM, Leela Gilday rekindled an old love. It was jam night at The Labyrinth, a popular tourist bar in the city’s Old Quarter. She knew a pile of people and they all sang and played guitar until 2 a.m. Warmed by the place and the spirit of the night, Gilday decided then that she couldn’t quit playing music. “To my immense relief, I seem to have found my passion again,” she later wrote in her email travelogue. “I do want to be a musician.” Continue reading

Montreal Symphony’s Northern Exposure

The world-renowned Orchestre symphonique de Montreal opens its Canada-wide tour at a Yellowknife high school

IF YOU IGNORED THE BASKETBALL NETS folded into the rafters and the championship flags peeking out from the velvet drapes, a Yellowknife gymnasium effectively became a concert hall Monday night. The world-renowned Orchestre symphonique de Montreal opened its Canada-wide tour at St. Patrick High School to a crowd of 850 symphony-starved locals. Yellowknife, population about 19,000, had never hosted musicians so prestigious, and the orchestra had never travelled so far north in its own country. Continue reading

Squeezing Money From Stone

As the pioneers of Inuit carving pass on, many worry about the new crop of artists that is churning out ubiquitous polar bears and souvenirs for quick money

“POLAR BEARS ARE KILLING ME,” says Bill Nasogaluak. The 53-year-old Inuit artist recently left Yellowknife to escape a five-inch-high stone bear – the bane of his career. A carver for 20 years, Nasogaluak now lives near Toronto, closer to high-end art dealers who will buy his expressive, unconventional sculptures. His works depict ancient legends and vent social issues, but, as he puts it, “they couldn’t compete with a $200 polar bear.” Continue reading