Northern SK Artists Unite in Isolation
Like many artists, documentary photographer Daniel Dillon has had a project “in his back pocket” for the past five years. His goal was a photo series following local artists as they create a body of work, but he could never find the time. Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and he and the artists he wanted to feature were stuck at home. All they had was time.
“This project gives me something to work on during COVID-19 to distract me from the sad events happening in our province, country and around the world,” he says. “Everyone I spoke with had projects in their back pocket that they wanted to work on at some point. It really kicked them in the backside to get started on them.”
Dillon received a Micro-Grant from SK Arts and gathered a team of 12 artists from the Creighton/Flin Flon area to create projects in their homes in a variety of genres – painting, quilting, pottery, woodturning, metalwork, beading and more.
“Elaine Angelski, a potter I’m working with, always wanted to make a full set of dishes and cups. Now she’s pushing herself to her limit, because she has the time to do it, and she’s really enjoying it,” Dillon says.
Quilter Sandra Dixon agrees. “When time was very fluid in the early stages of the pandemic, this project was an excellent focal point.”
Over the course of the lockdown, artists met up through monthly videoconferencing calls, supporting and motivating one another in their work. Dixon notes, “Being a part of the project made me feel connected to my community of fellow artists and northerners when we were all separated.”
The project is very personal and meaningful to beadwork artist Doreen Roman, as it helped her connect with her nêhiyawak/Anishinaabe/Nakota background. “I never grew up learning my culture. A call out was made on Facebook for beaded vamps, and I decided to send in a pair of vamps. I had to get a friend of mine to teach me how to bead, as I didn’t know how to, and I didn’t know what a vamp was,” she recalls.
Dillon photographed the artists at different points in their processes, maintaining social distance by standing at the doors of their studios and using a long lens. “It’s amazing to be invited into these artists’ studios to see how different they are.”
Avery Ascher, metalworker, is also excited by the diversity of arts and crafts expression represented in the project. “Dan’s photos of each of us working will deepen the stories that the finished artworks themselves will tell,” she says.
One of Dillon’s goals was to help artists maintain a positive state of mental health during the lockdown. Visual artist Matthew Enns feels the project accomplished that. “My life for the last few years has been difficult and chaotic. The virus and this project have given me an opportunity to take a breath.”
The project will culminate in a month-long exhibition at the Flin Flon NorVA Centre in 2021, which will feature Dillon’s portraiture alongside the artists’ biographies and COVID-19 creations. The team of artists hopes that the exhibition will be an opportunity for them to finally gather in person. Dillon also plans to create a self-published book as a historical record of the work.
Top: Elaine Angelski -- pottery
Middle: Sandra Dixon -- quilting
Bottom: Doreen Roman -- beadwork
Photos by Daniel Dillon