Canada 2017

This Toronto artist is putting a pop-art spin on Canada 150

From Cowagee to Oscar Peterson.

Canada 2017

October 27, 2017

Dan Springer's 'The Canada 150' pieces: #058 Cogwagee, for Cogwagee (aka: Tom Longboat) the Onondaga distance runner; #062 - #065, Canadiana Pennants; and the log driver (in progress). (Dan Springer)

It's been an often asked question this year: what defines Canada?

Toronto-based artist Dan Springer has been answering that question by applying his distinct pop-art esthetic to his favourite Canadianisms — subjects and objects he's noticed through the unique lens of moving to Canada as a teenager in the '80s — through brightly coloured acrylics on wood to functioning door knockers to felt pennants. 

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We spoke to Springer about his quest to create 150 pieces of art for the sesquicentennial.

What inspired you to start this project?

I am not originally from Canada. I am from the U.S. and moved to Canada in 1982 at the age of 14 (my dad was transferred, my parents moved back to the U.S. in 1988 but I stayed in Canada myself and became a citizen in the same year.) Some people may think moving from the U.S. to Canada is not a big deal — we have a great deal in common.

I did have to learn how to correctly spell many things. I was introduced to new words and sayings, new places, new history in school, products in stores, new music, new television programs, new foods. So my world was off-kilter and the little differences was what I noticed. It is many of these little unique Canadianisms that make up the bulk of my work in this project.

You're currently sharing new images from the project online — when did you get started?

I actually came up with the idea and started in February this year (I wish I thought of it last year so I was better prepared), so each piece has been made this year and is a work in progress. I post each piece as I finish. I am hoping to finish by the end of the year!

150 works of art is a lot! Has it been a challenge coming up with the object or idea for each piece?

Coming up with 150 subjects was not a problem — I try to pick from history, pop culture, sports, Canadianisms, food, etc. to give a good variety. The real hard part is waking up, looking through the folder and deciding which subject to paint that day. More often than not I will start something, then something will pop into my head totally unrelated and not on my list but I end up going in that direction.

What are the long term plans for the project?

Long term plans will be first to finish it! I would love to tour it across Canada. After all, it is about showing my love for the entire country. I may try to make a small run photo book of the project, and then eventually sell all the pieces (my house is stuffed to the gills with pieces on all the furniture and walls in the meantime.)

Follow The Canada 150 project on facebook.com/thecanada150 and instagram.com/thecanada150.ca.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.