150-plus years in one giant painting: how 9 Ontario artists are telling the story of Canada

From John A. Macdonald to David Suzuki, who would you put in a painting of Canada?

From coast to coast and from Sir John A. Macdonald to David Suzuki.

"Our Canada" by Barrie, Ont.'s BaySide Artists, is a composite of 16 original paintings. (BaySide Artists)

What would you put in a painting of Canada?

A group of women artists in Barrie, Ont. — together called BaySide Artists — decided to answer that question for themselves for Canada's sesquicentennial.

They began brainstorming in early 2016 on how they could creatively commemorate Canada 150. Their idea: to paint a composite of the Canadian flag. The pieces to make up the whole: sixteen original paintings that pay homage to Canada's history, landscape and people.

The story that has made Canada what it is today.

And their biggest challenge? "How to effectively render our images using only these two colours," says Pat Guinn of BaySide Artists. "We decided to us neutral tones to represent the 'white' areas of the flag, and burnt umber would create depth and perspective in the 'red' areas."

This isn't Guinn's first time celebrating a big year for Canada. 

"In 1967, the city of Barrie held a contest to crown a Centennial Queen," says Guinn. "Each of us delivered a speech on what Centennial means to me, I was honoured with the crown as Centennial Queen... I got to ride in a beautiful convertible. As a rural girl, this was pretty special to me."

And fifty years later, she and her fellow artists created something else special: the impressive 9 foot by 4.5 foot installation titled Our Canada. Here are some of the pieces that make up the whole:

Mary Lynne Atkinson's "Beechey Island," a nod to Franklin’s exploration of the Northwest Passage. (BaySide Artists)
"The Marathon of Hope" by Carmen Prieto. (BaySide Artists)
Barb Ritchie depicted renowned artist Emily Carr painting in an Indigenous village in B.C. (BaySide Artists)
"All in a Day’s Work" by Margaret Paradis focusses on the significance of Canada’s natural resources. (BaySide Artists)
"Canada’s Contralto" by Patricia Guinn gives nod to singer Portia White's musical success. (BaySide Artists)

Step back from these five close-ups and you'll see they are within the centre of the image of the Canadian flag:

The completed montage "Our Canada." (BaySide Artists)

"Through these powerful images, this installation highlights [some of] Canada's significant historical moments and tells a moving story," said Barrie MPP Ann Hoggarth at the installation's first reception. "The story that has made Canada what it is today."

Are you creating art for, about, or because of Canada 150? Share your paintings, photography, music, poetry, or local event with us at 2017@cbc.ca.

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