Robert L. Peters

23 October 2010

Cultural narratives… told with a pencil!

Winnipeg, Canada

I’ve long held that “we live in stories,” (a notion I first heard expressed in those four eloquent words by colleague Bruce Brown of Brighton, UK, at a Vancouver GDC conference I was participating in a decade ago). This leitmotif was driven home once again for me yesterday morning while attending a keynote presentation by Gerald Kuehl to hundreds of Manitoba art teachers at the Winnipeg Art Gallery.

Gerald enraptured those present with passionate, poignant story-telling of his ventures into Manitoba’s and Nunavut’s far-flung communities of First Nation peoples… where he has devoted the past decade-and-a-half to the exquisite portrayal (by means of graphite on paper) of elders—the spontaneous standing ovation at the end of his presentation could hardly do justice to the devoted narrative loosed by his illustrative talents.

This evening Gerald shared an e-mail with me from someone else in the audience on Friday (I hope it’s OK if I pass that on here): “Wow… today was so moving.  I can’t begin to find the words to say how much of what you do touches my heart. I cried throughout, it was so good. You understand us and what we have gone through as a people. I wish there were more people like you. I wish people didn’t hate us just because of who we are but, they do. It’s everywhere and then I have the very good fortune to meet someone like you, someone who does not judge. You are such a good man with a good heart. As my future daughter-in-law says, “I may be white on the outside but, I am brown on the inside.” And this is something you can say too. Thank you so much Gerald and I thank the Creator for showing me you.”

The images above are of Charlie Learjaw and Luke Moose. You can view more of Gerald’s incredible graphite portraiture on his website here. In case you’re wondering, Gerald spends approximately one month on each portrait—he only works in monochrome, in part, because he is colour-blind).

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