Kanata: A Native Perspective
Shedding light on the unique and often difficult northern Canadian Indigenous experience
Artist Jim Logan’s striking paintings focus on the distinct and at times disturbing experience of growing up in one of Canada’s northern Indigenous communities.
Alarge portion of my 30-year career as an artist has been devoted to revealing the truth behind Indigenous communities. I admit to changing my style a little over the years, but I like to define my work as a continued study of the northern Canadian Indigenous experience. It is my way of politely and respectfully communicating the harsh realities of poverty, living within a hegemonic society, and rethinking what “reconciliation” is and if one can really ever achieve such.
As it stands, I don’t think the word “reconciliation” was meant for us. It was directed, more so, to the dominant culture, so that non-indigenous Canadians could become aware of the injustices our people endure everyday. I am not convinced that Canada can actually reconcile, nor do I believe we can forget and feel whole in our current relationship with Canada.
It is not quaint and peaceful in a typical northern Indigenous community; it is quite the opposite. There is violence, drug and alcohol addiction, gas and solvent abuse, and a lot of frightening sexual and physical harm. I have painted about these negative realities a lot during my career. Being 63 years old, I seem to have grown tired of it all. I even find myself trying to forget about it. Issues of health, poverty, housing, gangs and crime have taken over many northern Indig- enous communities, while our old cultural values of hope, honesty hard work, respect and honour struggle to remain. Having lived through these difficult environments has made painting them that much more of a challenge. There have been times where I’ve taken breaks and worked in other styles, but regardless of how physically
and emotionally draining it is, my heart tells me to continue.
Throughout my most recent “Village” works, I have intentionally left subtle hints depicting the harsh living conditions in certain Indig- enous communities I’ve lived in or otherwise became familiar with between 1960 and 1990. In my “Reconciliation” series, I delve deeper into my past experiences as a child, how I pushed through them and how I was reawakened during my time in the Yukon.
I imagine it being very difficult for nonIndigenous Canadians to really grasp what reconciliation means for us. I have always done my best to communicate the complexity of our communities through my art—but unless you have truly immersed yourself within Indigenous groups, it’ll be difficult to understand. There is so much pessimism surrounding Canada’s Indigenous communities, and it mostly emanates from people who do not know the history and do not understand the spiritualism of place or the need for resistance.
must resist in order to remain culturally significant. Assimilation is not the answer. Many of our people feel we live under “occupation,” similar in some ways to what happened to the people of Germanoccupied Europe during the Second World War. One big difference is that we’ve been living under a form of occupation for much longer than that. It has been going on since 1876, when the Indian Act stripped us of our freedom.
As an artist, my intentions are never to focus solely on political matters. I simply want to record the pathos of living under the hegemonic condition we find ourselves in today. During my lifetime, I have been impoverished, I’ve felt lost, and I have experienced abuse. However, I always enjoy looking at the glass as half full, rather than half empty. There is beauty in everything—you just have to find it. Perhaps that is why I sometimes paint in bright colours and, other times, in black and white. Sometimes an artist does not fully understand or cannot explain the reasons behind the works he or she creates; it’s up to the viewer to interpret what is depicted and then come up with an answer on their own. n
Above: According to Jim, kids were warned to hide from big black cars, as they were usually government vehicles, not to be trusted. Left: this haunting image painted by Jim proved to be therapeutic, as it helped him cope with disturbing childhood incidents.
“Assailant” is another of Jim’s paintings that addresses child abuse.