Canadian History Up in the Air—Along with 23 Nova Craft Canoes

From Nova Craft Canoes — Our canoes can be spotted in some unusual places these days. Two London art galleries are displaying our canoes in an exploration of Canadian history from an alternative perspective.

Underway in London is a research project entitled “Mapping Medievalism at the Canadian Frontier.” Led by University of Western Ontario art history professor Kathryn Brush, the project aims to introduce Canadian history to the definition of “medievalism.” In the exhibition, artifacts from the European Middle Ages are mixed with Native North American objects from the same era. The effect is to visually define the “Canadian Middle Ages.”

Among the Native North American objects on display is our authentic birch-bark canoe. Normally housed in London's Paddle Shop showroom, the canoe is now a spectacle at UWO's McIntosh Gallery – one of three exhibition sites for Brush's project. Together with pre-1550 Native artifacts and other historical objects, the 16-foot replica carries the Native North American side of the visual dialogue.

Our canoes also appear in a related installation, across campus in the Visual Arts Department. Assigned to respond to Brush's exhibition, third-year sculpture students have begun their own exhibition, called “Medievaled Sculpture.” The show takes place in the department's ArtLAB gallery.

Inspired by our birch-bark canoe, the sculpture class decided to use canoes as the backdrop for their show. Not just one or two, however, but 23 of our Royalex Lites are being installed in the 1600-square-foot space! Moreover, most of the canoes will be hung from the gallery ceiling. Three people are required to hang each canoe: one to ride a Skylift up and tie ropes to steel girders 30-feet high, and two on the ground to hoist the canoe using pulleys. The canoes are being arranged in a Gothic pattern reminiscent of medieval architecture.

Underneath the Gothic canoe ceiling, the gallery floor is covered in a collaborative drawing project. The space in between contains the students' sculptures, involving all sorts of materials such as clay, glass, wood, metal, feathers, lights, video, and found objects.

The reaction to “Medievaled Sculpture” is that of "surprise," says Kelly Jazvac, the class's professor. The exhibit is a show-in-progress; the ArtLAB gallery is open during the installation. Closing night is Dec. 2, at which time installation will be complete. Jazvac anticipates a large closing night crowd.

We are pleased to support the university's research on expanding the current perception of Canadian history. In addition to its longstanding reputation as an "icon of the Canadian wilderness,” the canoe can now be considered a symbol of the Canadian Middle Ages.

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