Spell of the Yukon

by Kiernan Antares

#17P-001-124-BW

24″ x 30″ Acrylic

on Gallery Wood Panel

Artwork Statement

This project began with an intention to contribute good will into the world, but as I move more and more into it, I am reminded that one of the things that was a part of me from when I was a little girl, was to go into the stillness, the silence and to sense, listen and feel the presence of God in all things.

The sun, the moon, the stars, the land; the rivers and creeks I walked and listened to, the lakes and oceans I would swim in or watch the ripples and tides, the trees and leaves that whisper in their steadfast presence… everything would connect and fill me somehow.

And, even though I am connecting virtually across Canada’s nation, I can still listen, feel, and sense the spirit of the place… then paint and write the impressions that come. So, now it seems to me that it is not I contributing to the energy, but simply being an interpreter… bringing forth the beauty, power, wisdom, love and grace of our Creator and the LAND-SEA-SKY.

Spell of the Yukon—is an abstract representation of what was impressed upon me after spending days researching the history, wildlife, folklore, arts, and culture of one of the last great wildernesses left in the world. The breath taking beauty of this arctic territory seems to capture the hearts of those who cross its often rugged path. Residents would not dream of leaving and tourists long to return.

A land where once the whooly mammoth, mastadon’s, camel’s, scimitar cats, roamed the plains with bears, Yukon horses and other animals. A land where the first people migrated from Asia near the end of the ice age, some 15,000 years ago, by crossing the Bering Land Bridge, a mass of land that connected the continents and later submerged in water.

I virtually explored some of its landmarks, special moments such as the gold rush, and the various First Nation’s peoples and the government and its status of treaties with these nations. This project… and this territory became fascinating to me. Watching videos, listening to music… all these things are informing me.

The painting itself—almost titled ‘Crimson and Gold’, finally emerged after a failed experiment, which ultimately inspired the vibrant art set against a black trim, and which will become a theme in the Canada Legacy series.

The great passion of the people of Yukon for its land inspired the main colours in this piece; crimson, rose, magenta, orange, and yellow. The complimentary colours; violet, phthalo and cerulean blue, and black add depth—the history and backdrop of a rich land laced with gold paint and flecks. How could I not?

All the colours—coincidentally depicted in Yukon’s coat of arms, its floral emblem Fireweed, and its official gemstone lazulite.

I imagined, as I explored and tuned in to what wanted to be painted, that I was this woman… What would she be feeling? Thinking? Experiencing? Seeing?

What does this land have to teach us, it’s first people’s, it’s modern day peoples? And, what about it’s wildlife? It’s simple living and it’s rugged living. Can you imagine?

I also researched Yukon’s flora and fauna, its government, it’s economic sectors, and climate, and not surprisingly, I found myself ensconced in the arts—both painting and music, which is rich with its own cool blues. And, yes I listened to it over and over as I painted.

Oh my goodness I watched back road adventure videos, living in Yukon videos, and of course Travel Yukon ones too. They all made me long to actually visit so that I could soak it all up into my feet and body. Thankfully, imagination is a powerful tool.

In my quest I discovered moving writings by Robert W. Singer, who was a British-Canadian poet and writer who has often been called “the Bard of the Yukon”. My painting is named in honour of my favourite poem of his dated c1907.

I wanted the gold, and I sought it,
I scrabbled and mucked like a slave.
Was it famine or scurvy — I fought it;
I hurled my youth into a grave.
I wanted the gold, and I got it —
Came out with a fortune last fall, —
Yet somehow life’s not what I thought it,
And somehow the gold isn’t all.

No! There’s the land. (Have you seen it?)
It’s the cussedest land that I know,
From the big, dizzy mountains that screen it
To the deep, deathlike valleys below.
Some say God was tired when He made it;
Some say it’s a fine land to shun;
Maybe; but there’s some as would trade it
For no land on earth — and I’m one.

You come to get rich (damned good reason);
You feel like an exile at first;
You hate it like hell for a season,
And then you are worse than the worst.
It grips you like some kinds of sinning;
It twists you from foe to a friend;
It seems it’s been since the beginning;
It seems it will be to the end.

I’ve stood in some mighty-mouthed hollow
That’s plumb-full of hush to the brim;
I’ve watched the big, husky sun wallow
In crimson and gold, and grow dim,
Till the moon set the pearly peaks gleaming,
And the stars tumbled out, neck and crop;
And I’ve thought that I surely was dreaming,
With the peace o’ the world piled on top.

The summer — no sweeter was ever;
The sunshiny woods all athrill;
The grayling aleap in the river,
The bighorn asleep on the hill.
The strong life that never knows harness;
The wilds where the caribou call;
The freshness, the freedom, the farness —
O God! how I’m stuck on it all.

The winter! the brightness that blinds you,
The white land locked tight as a drum,
The cold fear that follows and finds you,
The silence that bludgeons you dumb.
The snows that are older than history,
The woods where the weird shadows slant;
The stillness, the moonlight, the mystery,
I’ve bade ’em good-by — but I can’t.

There’s a land where the mountains are nameless,
And the rivers all run God knows where;
There are lives that are erring and aimless,
And deaths that just hang by a hair;
There are hardships that nobody reckons;
There are valleys unpeopled and still;
There’s a land — oh, it beckons and beckons,
And I want to go back — and I will.

They’re making my money diminish;
I’m sick of the taste of champagne.
Thank God! when I’m skinned to a finish
I’ll pike to the Yukon again.
I’ll fight — and you bet it’s no sham-fight;
It’s hell! — but I’ve been there before;
And it’s better than this by a damsite —
So me for the Yukon once more.

There’s gold, and it’s haunting and haunting;
It’s luring me on as of old;
Yet it isn’t the gold that I’m wanting
So much as just finding the gold.
It’s the great, big, broad land ‘way up yonder,
It’s the forests where silence has lease;
It’s the beauty that thrills me with wonder,
It’s the stillness that fills me with peace.”

~ Robert W. Singer

A Message from this Painting

From the depths of the waters that flow, the scale of the mountains on high, the wildness that refuses to be tamed, there resides a reservoir of strength that awaits any on a quest of seeking to know oneself.

It beckons the hungering spirit. It tests us to know where we are; where I end and you begin and to set the boundaries between while honouring the truth we are all connected; to each other, to LAND-SEA-SKY and every breath in between.

Spell of the Yukon—with passages of time abutting the forces of nature there is a bridge; a place where the stillness offers moments of reflection. Where have you been… Where are you now… Who are you now… What have you learned… What flecks of gold are offered to you now…What passion remains undiscovered, untapped…

The answers can be found in the slowing down, in considering life’s mysteries and heeding your own counsel.

Spell of the Yukon—Detail Shots

This is the Yukon music playlist I created and listened to while painting…

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