Big Loon Portage

Jimson Bowler

Nov 13 - May 1, 2014

Opening: Nov 12, 1:00 PM-5:00 PM

“I know of no other stronger image in this town than the canoe, or a better way to honour the people than together.”

-Jimson Bowler
The canoe has become an icon of Indigenous culture, Canada, and, more specifically, Peterborough. Indigenous and landed communities have used, and still use, canoes as a mode of transportation, a way to enjoy the landscape, and a medium of creative expression. Because of this, Big Loon Portage (2013) is a fitting artwork to install on a Peterborough Transit bus.
The piece takes as its base, a found landscape by an anonymous hobbyist, painting en plein air. It is a familiar depiction, indistinct enough to remain familiar and recognizable to most viewers. On top, Bowler has added the story of the 5000-year-old Chemong, or, Big Loon Portage in an aesthetic that intentionally resembles Morrisseau’s. A brightly coloured canoe spans the length of the painting, a loon flies across the top, and a circle of people dance and celebrate. These additions respond to the original work, relating to the fall pallet, the waterway, and the path. These elements tell of travelling, of communities moving and being together through space. The meaning spans histories and cultures.
The painting was photographed and adapted to fit the exterior of a city bus. There, on grand scale, Bowler playfully relates bus routes to river currents; wheels to paddles; daily commutes to migratory journeys. The work edges off the canvas and wraps around the frame of the painting, and the bus, in a gesture that blurs the borders between the past and the present, between indigenous and landed communities. It is a subversively humourous, yet deeply respectful and hopeful gesture towards community.