Sharing a Virtual Studio

Weathered boards from old cabins, archival photos from the Gold Rush era, and 21st century communications technology.

These are the ingredients behind the exhibition Old Faces, Old Places, which recently relocated from the Chocolate Claim to Bella Home Décor on Industrial Road.

The show is a collaboration between local painter Deanna Slonski and Toronto artist Lisa Graziotto, who bill themselves as “Canada’s Group of Two”.

It’s the fourth exhibit they’ve mounted together in Whitehorse since they first met at the One of a Kind art expo in Toronto a few years back.

“We immediately struck up a friendship that seemed like we had known each other forever,” Graziatto says from her Toronto studio.

The two maintained regular contact via Skype, which allowed them to watch each other paint and exchange ideas as if they shared a work space.

That same technology allowed Graziotto, who has never been to Yukon—”only in my dreams”—to attend the show’s opening at the Chocolate Claim last month.

“Having her sitting up on the counter, meeting my friends and family and colleagues, and them being able to meet her… People would say, ‘How is she able to paint the Yukon? She’s never been here.'”

In fact, the dozen or so small, oil-on-canvas paintings Graziatto contributed to the show are based on black-and-white period photos she found in various online archives.

“The more images I uncovered, the more I found out a little bit about the gold rush, and the women of the gold rush, and the dogs of the gold rush, and the people that would carry pianos over the Chilkoot Pass,” she says. “It was so fascinating to me.”

Slonski, who was born and raised in Yukon, adds, “She would show me these pictures, and I’d say, ‘That colour’s amazing. How did you do that? It’s so true to what we have up here.'”

For her part, Slonski used pieces of old cabin walls and furniture found along the shores of lakes and rivers in the Tagish, Atlin and Dawson City areas, for the seven acrylic paintings of old Yukon buildings she did for the show.

“I let a lot of the raw wood show through, because that played nicely with what the actual image was,” she says. “You’ll notice that some of the dirt is not paint, it’s actually the wood grain and the texture.”

While the two artists haven’t yet displayed their work outside Whitehorse, Graziotto hopes to “reciprocate the kindness of Deanna” by arranging a southern exhibition, perhaps in her hometown of Guelph, Ontario.

For now, the two friends and colleagues intend to continue collaborating by means of the technology that allowed Graziotto to be in Whitehorse for the opening without ever leaving her studio.

And yes, she admits getting into the spirit of the occasion.

“The food they had there looked incredible, and I had my own cheese and wine. It was great. I enjoyed it very much.”

Old Faces, Old Places will be on display at Bella Home Décor indefinitely.

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