One of the many projects under the umbrella of the Dawson City Arts Society is the ODD Galley, which is housed on a corner of the ground floor of the Odd Fellows Hall.
The gallery mounts works by local, regional and international artists — leaning somewhat towards the avant-garde.
The latest exhibit is by Veronica Verkley, a Dawson artist who lives off-grid and has been a regular on the faculty of the Yukon School of Visual Arts since 2007.
Them Thar Hills: A Backwoods Alphabestiary is a collection of 26 roughly framed dioramas, running from A to Z, featuring creatures both real and imagined, in settings that are at times naturalistic and at times clever commentaries on the problems animals face in a world dominated by human beings.
Patrons enter a mock forest before walking around the perimeter of the room, either bearing one of the small booklets hanging on the wall, or simply reading the exhibit notes typed in an old-fashioned font on cards fastened beside each item.
The note beside the busy beaver working on its lodge comments on its place in the history of Northern exploration and development in a straightforward fashion, but the card on the diorama is more whimsical: “Beaver skookumizes the renovations.”
The next card, focussing on the caribou, is also factual, but the diorama shows a single caribou blocked by a pipeline, and is captioned: “Caribou discovers a new thing.”
Later on a coyote is shown in a landfill with the caption: “Coyote learns to forage.”
The fanciful entries in the bestiary include the ice worm, the jackalope, the No See Um and the Sasquatch, each with a card crafted in pseudo-scientific terms describing the creature, its habits, and habitat.
In one particularly striking image, a pressure-distorted mammoth is shown lying between geological seams with the caption: “Mammoth sifts through paydirt,” a reference to the number of bones and tusks that have been uncovered by placer miners over the last 115 years.
Finally, Verkley has added the lynx to her fanciful creatures by linking them to her popular short film A Working Cat’s Guide to the Klondike, whichwon the Audience Choice Award at the 2012 Dawson International Short Film Festival and was enthusiastically applauded at this year’s Percy DeWolfe Memorial Mail Race.
This is a spoof of mushing in which she imagined that cats might once have been used in place of dogs.
Veronica Verkley’s show Them Thar Hills: A Backwoods Alphabestiary will be on exhibit at the ODD Gallery until June 21.
After 32 years teaching in rural Yukon schools, Dan Davidson retired from that profession but continues writing about life in Dawson City.