The game is six degrees of Canadian history. Take two seemingly unrelated pieces of Canadian culture and connect the dots through various people, places and events to discover how they’re distantly — or maybe not-so-distantly — related. Along the way, we visit the quizzical and curious, the tragic and comic, and everything in between.
Walter Seymour Allward, sculptor (born 18 November 1876 in Toronto; died 24 April 1955 in Toronto). Walter Allward cemented his reputation as one of Canada’s greatest monumental sculptors with the mammoth Canadian National Vimy Memorial in Vimy, France (1922–36), which commemorated the important Battle of Vimy Ridge (April 1917) and the more than 11,000 Canadians listed as missing in action during the First World War.
Julien Hébert, visual artist and designer (born 19 August 1917 in Rigaud, Québec; died 24 May 1994 in Montréal). Hébert is considered the father of modern design in Québec. Inspired by the Scandinavian modernism movement, which unites design, industry and craft (see Industrial Design), he dedicated his career to creating objects and environments that were organic, simple and functional, to encouraging local industry, and to developing industrial design teaching in his home province.
Alanis Obomsawin, OC, GOQ, filmmaker, singer, artist, storyteller (born 31 August 1932 near Lebanon, New Hampshire). One of Canada’s most distinguished documentary filmmakers, Alanis Obomsawin began her career as a professional singer and storyteller before joining the National Film Board of Canada (NFB) in 1967. Her award-winning films address the struggles of Indigenous peoples in Canada from their perspective, giving prominence to voices that have long fallen on deaf ears. An Officer of the Order of Canada and a Grand Officer of the National Order of Québec, she has received the Prix Albert-Tessier and the Canadian Screen Awards’ Humanitarian Award, as well as multiple Governor General’s Awards, lifetime achievement awards and honorary degrees.
Elizabeth Posthuma Simcoe, née Gwillim, author and illustrator (baptized 22 September 1762 in Northamptonshire, England; died 17 March 1850 in Devon, England). Elizabeth was the wife of John Graves Simcoe, the first lieutenant-governor of Upper Canada. She was an author and illustrator, renowned for her detailed diary and pictures depicting life in early Upper Canada.
Rodney Graham, artist (born 16 January 1949 in Abbotsford, BC). Known for his conceptual sculpture, text-works, photography and films, Rodney Graham is associated with a group of Vancouver artists that includes Jeff Wall, Ian Wallace, Ken Lum, Stan Douglas and Roy Arden. Graham is especially notable for the ways in which he incorporates various technologies, and the history of technology, into his artworks.
Ken Lum is widely known for work that draws upon traditions from pop and conceptual art, as well as a broad range of motifs from mass culture. His art, which has variously included painting, sculpture, installation, photography, and video, has been recognized in Canada with a 30-year retrospective at the Vancouver Art Gallery and exhibited abroad at major international art galleries and festivals.
Jeff Wall is internationally renowned for his large, complex, back-lit photographs which address a variety of issues, including the circumstances of Indigenous peoples in Vancouver. Academically trained in art history, Wall is the best known member of a group of artists that has come to be known as the Vancouver School.
Idola Saint-Jean, feminist and pioneer in the fight for women’s suffrage (born 19 May 1880 in Montréal, QC; died 6 April 1945 in Montréal). The first woman from Québec to run as a candidate in a federal election, she devoted over 20 years of her life to active efforts to improve women’s legal rights.1
An artist of colour closely associated with the Vancouver School, Stan Douglas examines the complexities of social reality and history and the means by which they are represented. While his initial reputation was as a video and installation artist, more recently he has been acclaimed for his large format back-lit photographs of elaborately re-staged historical scenes.