Despite the resplendent abundance of Yukon artists, Nicole Bauberger’s name is well-known. She is known.
She’s not a venerated Elder or a famous come-from-away who moved here with a built-in reputation. Bauberger is a youngish woman who decided to make her living as an artist.
Has she succeeded?
Bauberger’s show Yukon Drives is on exhibit at the ODDGallery, in Dawson City, until June 19.
It’s a hugely ambitious collection: four themed collections that pay homage to drives along Yukon roads. The largest consists of 25 panels showing the route from Whitehorse to Inuvik.
Bauberger stopped every 50 kilometres, when the road twisted right, and painted from the back of her 4Runner. Other roads are Dawson City to Whitehorse, Dawson to the Tombstones and Hillcrest (from her residence) into Whitehorse.
Across Princess Street from the ODD Gallery, at Bombay Peggy’s, are more of her works – the ones she’s selling. At the end of May, the collection – what’s left of it – will move to 40 Mile Gold Gallery for the rest of the summer.
Bauberger has also been painting dresses – a huge, ongoing art project created onsite. Each series of 100 small, encaustic paintings of dresses are inspired by the show’s locale.
She positions herself in a public location because interaction with the public is part of the process. Passersby get to suggest drawings, to tell stories, even to paint their own dress.
Titled 100 Dresses, she’s had these living exhibits in 12 centres, which include Dawson City, Montréal, Peterborough, Calgary, and has several upcoming engagements, as well.
So, what makes this artist tick? How did she find her passion?
We’re sitting at my picnic table on a sunny Dawson City day. Bauberger twists her head and looks at me from under one of those Yukon bush hats adorned with feathers. In university, she took mathematics and English, the basic languages, she says.
“Algebra was beautiful and I was beguiled into studying math.”
She was a good student and could have been a mathematician. There was pressure to go to grad school, “But then painting and drawing came and got me,” she says.
She wondered, What’s the most challenging thing I can do? When she realized the answer, Making a living as an artist. So she took up the challenge.
To learn the craft, Bauberger spent five years apprenticing with an artist. It’s been 10 years since she has been on her own and succeeding. Now her creativity sustains her.
“I make paintings and sell them, have shows at public galleries, do some teaching – though I do less teaching now, unless it is to expand the impact of my art shows.”
She praises the Yukon government for rewarding her hard work with grants that help create the work and bring it to the public. In addition to painting, Bauberger has worked in theatre and puppetry and she writes for What’s Up Yukon and Galleries West.
Sometimes there has been an internal battle between what Bauberger considers her “main branch”, painting, and the smaller branches that are digressions into storytelling, theatre and other interests.
“I looked at the trees at the end of March, this year, and realized that only dead trees have no small branches.” The paintings are her big branches, but, without the small ones, she wouldn’t be alive.
Anyone who sees Nicole Bauberger’s magnificent paintings will wish the artist a long, fruitful life.