Artists' project finds beauty in difficult pandemic time

Isolation can breed creativity. That’s exactly what Dan Dillon is trying to accomplish during the COVID-19 pandemic with a new art project.

Dillon has partnered with artists across northern Saskatchewan and Manitoba for a two-part art project. The creations of the artists will be paired with portraits of each creating their piece. The group will be meeting in online video chats throughout the project.

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Dillon said he came up with the idea a few years ago and jumped at the opportunity to get the project off the ground during quarantine.

“The artists are working in their individual studios in isolation and we’re all coming together to work on a common project,” he said.

The projects range from fiddle-making to caribou tufting to painting. The projects should be finished by the end of June, with Dillon hoping to put together an exhibition in 2021. Dillon has already taken photos of four of the artists.

“They all needed a push to do a project, so this kind of pushed them in that direction,” Dillon said.

“They’ve all pushed themselves to go in a direction they’ve never gone before.”

Dillon said the toughest part for some of the artists may not be the creation of the art pieces, but supporting the documentary photography. Dillon asks the artists to go decade by decade describing the events of their life that influenced them.

“The biography piece is challenging for all of them,” he said.

“They’ve never really had to do that thinking… The biography part of this work will be a legacy that those artists will be able to pass down generations to come.”

Dillon, a teacher at Many Faces Education Centre, has tackled similar portrait pieces before, including working closely with the Flin Flon Fire Department to document their members through photography. Working with artists inside studios has proven to be a photography challenge.

“I’m always interested in natural light,” Dillon said.

“If I can’t get in natural light, so be it, but I try to do my best to incorporate it - one, because I want to keep it simple, and two, it’s nice working with natural light.”

Artists participating in the project include Alistair Callegari, Elaine Angelski, Monique Rainville, Theresa Wride, Avery Ascher, Mathew Enns, Sandra Dixon, Doreen Roman, Randy Whitbread, Lyle Wallaker, Noelle Drimmie and Vanessa Campbell.

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