Portraits of the North
The seed for Portraits of the North was planted in 1997 during a trip to northern Manitoba.
"I was fascinated by the stories of the individuals I met who had endured so much in their struggle to survive in the harsh northern environment. Those stories were often etched on the faces of these proud people through the lines and scars and even affected the expressions they wore. I was determined afterwards to capture that spirit and vitality through pencil portraiture."
That decision has taken Gerald over 90,000km. by car, plane, bus and train to many settlements and communities in the north. Eventually the project acquired the name, Portraits of the North. In pursuit of his goal Gerald has met prospectors from Bissett, trappers from Thicket Portage, land surveyors from Thompson's early days when nickel was first discovered and many other individuals.
"I have been especially interested in the last people in the north to live entirely off the land, hunting, fishing and trapping. Their stories in particular I find captivating."
Gerald also encountered those who had spent a lifetime on the sawmills either as operators or mechanics. He photographed women who raised children while their husbands were out on trap lines for weeks and sometimes months at a time. Their lives were no less and often more difficult than their spouses. For many it was hard to put a label on as they were jacks-of-all-trades depending on the season. Doing anything to eke out a living, each is a story of hard work and determination. The common denominator of these people has been their friendliness and willingness to share stories and life experiences with Gerald sometimes over a drink in the local restaurant, a meal at their home or just a cigarette on the street.
Gerald has been over the permanent winter road carved out of the wilderness from Lynn Lake to Brochet, Lac Brochet and Tadoule Lake on two occasions.
"It was the 14 hour arduous trek to Lac Brochet in 2000 that enabled me to meet the Dene people for the first time. I have since been to Tadoule Lake by plane and just recently by winter road. There I talked with the elders of the Sayisi Dene, most notably the legendary Betsy Anderson, 102 years old, and Charlie Learjaw."
During the years Gerald has been pursuing his project, Portraits of the North, he has been directly involved in Aboriginal culture. He has attended traditional weddings, undergone numerous pipe and sweat lodge ceremonies in many parts of the province and participated in a four day fast north of The Pas in August, 2000. All have been rewarding experiences which have fostered a great respect for Aboriginal people and their culture. Most importantly this exposure has given Gerald a greater understanding of his subject matter.
The collection of drawings includes the First Nations groups: Cree, Ojibway, Oji-Cree and Dene as well as the Metis people.
Portraits of the Far North
"My travels were taking me increasingly farther north.
In July of 2002, I landed in Rankin Inlet, Nunavut, to interview and photograph the Inuit elders of that community. It was my first trip north of the 60th parallel and I was enthralled by what I saw. The Inuit way of life was different from anything I had witnessed earlier.
These people grew up during a time when survival depended exclusively on their skills as hunters, fishers, trappers and gatherers. They lived nomadic existences while battling the unpredictability of nature in the most hostile environment in the world. While their clothes, physiques and character were indelibly shaped, it was their faces and hands, on the front lines, that were scorched by the sun and tortured by the cold.
That unique way of life which existed for millennia, surviving entirely off the land and sea, is now virtually extinct. These people and their stories are what remain.
Since 2009 I have visited all 7 communities in the Keewatin (Kivalliq) region of Nunavut. I am currently working on putting all material together, portraits and biographies, for publication."
Gerald's Early Years
Gerald Kuehl is a self taught pencil artist who grew up in Pinawa, Manitoba. Over the past 30 years he has drawn everything from wildlife to hockey skates and old trucks.
Prints have been sold of Gerald's drawings of N.H.L. hockey personalities such as Teemu Selanne, Thomas Steen and Eddie Belfour. In 1996 he was commissioned by Molson Canadian to produce a poster commemorating the history of the Winnipeg Jets Hockey Club.
Gerald has produced a series of drawings of the fish and mammals of northern Canada for the Federal Oceans and Fisheries Department.
Over the years Gerald's consuming interest in portraiture developed, which has proven to be "the most challenging but certainly most rewarding of all my subject matter." Because pencil lends itself to fine detail and subtlety of tones it allows Gerald to capture the extreme realism of his subjects leaving the viewer with a feeling of their unique spirit and character.
"My camera is my constant companion when I am traveling in the north. Capturing interesting aspects of people's personalities on film is a very important part of the process. These later translate into drawings that take from 70 to 100 hours to complete, creating a visual portrayal that goes beyond the photograph."
Bachelor of Education, University of Manitoba, May 1990
Bachelor of Physical Education, University of Manitoba, May 1977
C.A.R.F.A.C. member since 1991
Peterborough Museum (solo), Peterborough, Ontario, Dec.15/13 to March 23/14
Finalist, Kingston Prize, Canada's National Portrait Contest July/11
Leaf Rapids National Exhibition Center, (solo) July 1 to Aug.30/11
Legislative Assembly Nunavut/Iqaluit, (solo) Sept.7 to Dec.7/10
Wanuskewin Heritage Park (solo), Saskatchewan, Jan.1/10 to Nov.1/10
Co-Winner People's Choice Award, Wolfville, N.S., Kingston Prize, Nov./09
Finalist, Kingston Prize, Canada's National Portrait Contest July/09
St. Catherines Museum (solo), St. Catherines, Ontario, Nov. 15/08 to Jan. 15/09
Churchill Town Center (solo), Churchill, Manitoba, Sept. 15/08 to Nov. 15/08
Amtsbodasafnid (solo), Akureyri, Iceland, August 31/08 to September 30/08
Red Lake Heritage Museum (solo), Red Lake, Ontario, May /08 to July/08
Musee Heritage Museum (solo), St. Albert, Alberta, Feb./08 to April/08
New Icelandic Heritage Center (solo), Gimli, Manitoba, Feb./07 to April./07
Manitoba Museum (solo), Winnipeg, Manitoba, Sept./06 to Jan./07
Churchill Town Center (solo), Churchill, Manitoba, Oct./06 to Dec./06
Heritage North Museum (solo), Thompson, Manitoba, April /06
The Sam Waller Museum (solo), The Pas, Manitoba, Feb./06 to April /06
Leaf Rapids National Exhibition Center (solo), Leaf Rapids, Manitoba, Jan. 2006
Manitoba Museum (Solo), Winnipeg, Manitoba, Oct. /01 to Feb. /02
Piano Nobile Gallery (Solo), Manitoba Centennial Hall, February, 2001
Manitoba Art Expo, Assiniboia Downs, Winnipeg, Manitoba, November, 2000
Precambrian Art Center, Thompson, Manitoba (Solo), June, 2000
Manitoba Art Expo, Assiniboia Downs, Winnipeg, Manitoba, November, 1999
Manitoba Art Expo, Assiniboia Downs, Winnipeg, Manitoba, November, 1998
North Roots Magazine: All 6 issues: 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013
Keynote Speaker: Manitoba First Nations Education Resource Center, 'Lighting The Fire' Conference, Victoria Inn, May 11/2011
Queen's Quarterly: A Canadian Review (Vol.117 #4), Winter, 2010
Keynote Speaker: Manitoba Association for Art Education, Winnipeg Art Gallery, Oct.22/2010
Above & Beyond: July/Aug. 2010, Article by David Pelly
Finalist: Best Column or Regular Department (Portraits of the North), Maggie Awards 2010 (Man. Magazine Industry)
Nunavut News North: Aug., 2005; Jan. 18, June 16, July 21, 2010
Kivalliq News: Jan. 13, April 21, 2010; July 15, 2009; July 23, 2008; Aug. 2005
Naniiliqpita Magazine: Nunavut Tunngavik Incorportated, Summer issue, 2008
Canada's History Society -- The Beaver(on-line): May, 2008
Winnipeg Free Press, (article: Lorne Roberts) December, 2006
Winnipeg Free Press: (article: Morley Walker) October 19, 2006
First Perspective: July, 2006
Thompson Citizen: Thompson, April, 2006
Opasquia Times: The Pas, February, 2006
Up Here Magazine: April, 2005
Calm Air Aviation, began as Official Sponsor: Portraits of the North, Aug., 2004
Designtype, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Museum of Man & Nature, October, 2001
Calm Air Aviation, Thompson Art Exhibition, June, 2000