It is an impressive display of Ted Harrison’s Yukon. Wide swaths of bold colours of everyday life in a territory that is anything but “everyday”.
“Except the ones with the whales,” says Rolf Hougen dryly. “There are no whales in the Yukon.”
These are all posters that belong to he and his wife, Marg. Until recently, most of them were kept under his bed between flats of cardboard. Now they line the walls of the Hougen Heritage Gallery in Arts Underground .
The rest of the posters have been recently acquired as Mr. Hougen made the decision to finally bring them out where they can be seen. After collecting the posters from various places and special events over the past 25 to 30 years, the effort was kicked into high gear as it became obvious that this could be the largest collection of Ted Harrison posters anywhere.
“Ted has a huge collection, but he is not sure he has all of it,” says Mr. Hougen. “I don’t know if this is larger and Ted doesn’t really know.”
This was the first chance for Rolf and Marg Hougen to see the collection since the room was crowded with friends, family and Mr. Harrison himself at the show’s launch.
It was an occasion they took advantage of to announce a 10-year commitment to providing show space and workshops in the basement under the Hougen Centre to local artists. It is a million-dollar commitment that began in 2005.
They had come to drop off presents for the staff who had worked hard to make the evening so special.
Looking at the posters now in the quiet, well-lit gallery, Mr. Hougen says, yes, they are posters, “but they are absolutely beautiful posters.
“I like the colour … the great expanse of the Yukon scenery.
“Ted interprets the Yukon differently than the rest of us.”
Still, many of these are more than posters; they are “donations” to various causes.
“I’ve admired his art,” says Mr. Hougen, saying he has collected Mr. Harrison’s art since before they became friends — “Great friends,” he says – and he now owns seven or eight originals.
“But I’ve also admired what his art has done for the Yukon.”
Mr. Hougen points out a few, naming in particular one to support the Christ Church Cathedral and another for the Single Parents Resource Centre.
He waves in the direction of others, but right now he is looking for his favourite poster. It is called, Brunhilde’s World and honours Mr. Harrison’s dog.
He pauses in front of one, Love In The Midnight Sun: “That’s beautiful.”
With 51 posters on the walls, it turns into quite the search. And many of the posters include Brunhilde.
One is of Mr. Harrison with Brunhilde. He painted it after his wife, Nicky, died. It is called, Walking Alone.
Of all those posters under his bed, he found six duplicates and sold them the previous evening for a total of $1,000. This money has been added to the other fundraising efforts for the Ted and Nicky Harrison Fund which is administered by the Yukon Foundation with proceeds supporting the Ted Harrison Artist Retreat.
The collection of posters has been condensed to one room to allow local artists to display their works again in the rest of the gallery. These will remain until the end of July.
But, now that the posters have been nicely framed and preserved, they won’t go back under the bed. Instead, they will be stored at Arts Underground to be brought out again.
Meanwhile, Mr. Hougen will continue to look for posters that have eluded him. Indeed, he knows of one already that he will look into.
At the very least there will be another 24 to collect over the next year or so as Mr. Harrison has made this his next goal.
PHOTO: Rick Massie