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The Great White North offers a slice of Canadiana

Arts Whistler exhibit features works exploring Canadian winter



A new exhibit at the Maury Young Arts Centre gives viewers a taste of the mountains with a little dash of Canadiana sprinkled in for good measure.

The Great White North is Arts Whistler's latest show, featuring artists from across the Sea to Sky and Vancouver who have each filtered the experience of Canadian winter through their own unique lens.

"It's definitely an homage to the winter in Canada," explains Arts Whistler's programming manager Andrea Mueller.

Ranging from painted landscapes to mountain culture photography, the exhibit includes around 30 diverse works from 21 artists. But the focus isn't primarily on the peaks, according to Mueller; there's also an emphasis on the distinct culture of Canada forged during the most frigid months of the year.

"The pieces that have come in, there's actually quite a big variety," says Mueller. "It's a fun collection of the landscapes, but it's also about Canadian culture... As a whole, the collection depicts more than just the mountains. It's about humanity relating back to their landscape."

Mueller highlighted Bea Gonzalez's painting Après Ski in Whistler as a great slice of Canuck life, showing a group of guys playing pond hockey. Or there's Meghan Spence's colourful painting of Canadians' go-to winter footwear, Sorels. Mueller also mentioned Jessa Gilbert's dreamy mountain landscapes, which start with bold, single-line sketches she illustrated in the fresh mountain air while on breaks from skiing.

Among the other featured Sea to Sky artists are Anne Popma, Kate Zessel, Sean St. Denis, and Vanessa Stark.

Although Arts Whistler didn't plan it this way, the timing of The Great White North coincides with another local exhibit that explores Canadians' relationship with the mountains. Stone and Sky: Canada's Mountain Landscape, which runs at the Audain Art Museum until Feb. 26, goes back 150 years and delves into how some of Canada's iconic artists have portrayed and interpreted the country's rugged vistas. Mueller sees the two exhibits as ideal companions, and suggests checking out the Audain show for a historical primer before heading over to Maury Young Arts Centre for a contemporary, localized perspective.

"You can go take a tour (at the Audain) and get some history, and then come over here and see what local Whistler people are doing in terms of landscape and mountain and winter culture," she says.

Mueller feels the show is also a perfect introduction to Whistler, and by extension, Canada, for resort newcomers.

"It's just a fun exhibit," she says. "Especially for people who have just gotten here, say from Australia. It would be good for them to come and see the playful nature of a Canadian winter."

The Great White North runs until Jan. 7. The cabin-themed opening night reception is scheduled for Thursday, Dec. 7 at 7 p.m., and will include live music, appetizers, and a cash bar. Guests are encouraged to sport their finest plaid, hockey jerseys and/or toques for a night of hoser-ific fun.

"We'd love to see a bunch of new faces and old faces come out," adds Mueller. For more information, visit artswhistler.com.