Art by Emma Barr

For the Love of Dunes

Two weeks ago, battling wind that whipped sand across their faces and canvases, a group of 15 artists hunkered down in the Carcross sand dunes to document the area’s beauty.

Another 35 or so folks spent the afternoon there, too, strolling through the dunes and checking out the rare plants and insects that inhabit the dessert-like place.

This arty sit-in and walk-about was organized by Daphne Mennell, who has lived in Carcross for 40 years. She and others are concerned that the fragile ecosystem of the dunes will be destroyed when the Carcross-Tagish First Nation develops part of the area into waterfront properties.

The five-hour visit to the desert on July 7 resulted in a collection of artworks called Artists’ Day on the Dunes, which will be exhibited at the Wolf House gallery in Carcross starting on July 18.

The place is a fierce subject.

“You have to find a protected spot – you’re dealing with sand, you’re dealing with blowing, with trying to keep your easel up, with trying to stay warm,” Mennell says. “It was very challenging because of the wind.”

But it’s the wind that shapes the dunes and keeps their ecosystem in balance. It’s recognized to be a fragile place, and some areas of it are protected. Mennell would like to see it all protected.

“It’s been a source of inspiration and comfort to me, to have those dunes there,” Mennell says. “I have no vested interest, I just love the place. That’s all.”

Whitehorse resident Kelsey Eliasson is showing the artworks from the day at the dunes in his newly opened gallery space Wolf House, which he accidentally aquired in June.

“I stopped in to Carcross for a coffee, and left with a gallery,” he says.

Having only been in Carcross for three weeks, he doesn’t have an opinion on the development, though. Rather, he is a believer in documenting the beauty of the dunes.

Art by Emma Barr
Emma Barr is one of the artists entranced by the power of the Dunes.

“It’s our first show and we’re pretty excited about it,” Eliasson says. “And I think it’s an awesome cause — to record a place through art — and I think it should be done more, because we lose a lot of places.

“Whether it’s developed or not, you need to have a visual record to preserve what the dunes were. It’s not up to me to say who’s right or wrong, but if they’re developed then this is a great way to hold the memory. And yeah – I had a blank wall (to hang the show).”

The day at the dunes attracted nearly 50 people, and Mennell estimates that approximately 15 to 20 of them were Carcross residents — though none of them were members of the Carcross/Tagish First Nation.

Those with work in Artists’ Day on the Dunes include Emma Barr, John Boivin, Kelsey Eliasson, Neil Graham, Glenda Mosher, Daphne Mennell, and Glenn and Kathy Piwowar.

The opening reception is Thursday, July 18 starting at 6 p.m. at Wolf House in Carcross. The show will be on exhibit until the end of August.

Wolf House is located in Carcross Commons in the centre of town. Wolf House is open Thursday through Sunday from noon until 6 p.m.

For more information contact Daphne Mennell at [email protected].

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