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Canadian Artist of the Week
LOOK AT THIS: Canadiana At Its Darkest In Diana Thorneycroft’s Dioramas
February 22, 2014
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Martyrdom of the Great One

LOOK AT THIS is a weekly series featuring the work of Canadian artists, designers and creators of all sorts.

Name: Diana Thorneycroft

Born: Claresholm, AB

Raised: Claresholm, AB; Belleville, ON; Penhold, AB; CFB Baden-Soellingen, Germany; Cold Lake, AB; Yorkton, SK; Chatham, NB; Montreal, QC; Yellowknife, NT; Winnipeg, MB

Lives and works: Winnipeg, MB

The work: Thorneycroft’s dioramas challenge our beliefs in Canadian myths and stereotypes by using those images in surprising ways. All the requisite Canadian characters are there: Gretzky, Anne of Green Gables, Bob and Doug MacKenzie. But often, something’s wrong in these tiny displays — Gretzky’s being martyred by some very un-Canadian looking animals, for example, or Anne’s being menaced by moose. 

How she does it: Thorneycroft starts by deciding on her backdrop, a landscape image, and then starts building a ground cover in three dimensions to match. Then, she puts all of the other elements — figures, trees, props — into play before she sets the lights and photographs the scene (as many as 50 times).

Canadian myths: Thorneycroft told about her suspicion of the typical figures used to represent our country’s culture: “When I think of Canadiana, I think of kitsch paraphernalia, reeking of stereotypes, that are marketed to represent our culture, like howling wolves… First Nation dolls (often shown wearing clothing that has nothing to do with their heritage), beavers, hockey players, etc.”

Artists to admire: Aganetha Dyck, Betty Goodwin, William Kurelek, Alex Colville.

You might be surprised to know: “As a young adult, I was a Special Constable with the RCMP for two summers in a row.”


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