From 1976 – 1978 and 1980 – 1981, artist John Hartman lived in the Northwestern Ontario community of Collins. For Hartman, the experience living in what is now known as Namaygoosisagagun First Nation, was not only transformational, but also gave him insights to the rich inner lives of the people in the remote community and provided him with the inspiration for a series of prints, drawings and paintings.
Writing on his work in 1988, curator Dorothy Farr points out that not only do we sense the rugged physicality of place in Hartman’s work, but also the social impact and challenges presented by the exposure to Western values and the introduction of an evangelical Christian movement to the community. Moreover, these small-scale, stark and almost child-like renderings of the landscape and people reflect more the symbolic changes rather than depict the literal representations.
As Hartman writes, “the work raises particular experiences to a universal level for contemplation and a new understanding of ourselves as human beings.” In other words, the depiction of everyday events and activities of the people from Namaygoosisagagun, at its most fundamental level, provide us with the knowledge and stories to connect and understand the social, cultural and economic impact of the changes in Collins. We begin to see the region through Hartman’s eyes and piece together the nuances of narratives and relationships within the community.
This work was donated to the Thunder Bay Art Gallery’s permanent collection by the Artist.
Originally published in The Walleye – JAN 2018
By Nadia Kurd, Curator, Thunder Bay Art Gallery