The colourful 5 percent


I just returned from a trip to Whitehorse, Yukon Territories, in Canada. For those of you who live far, far away, and don’t know the geography of Canada, I was waaay up north. I thought I was close to the Arctic Circle, but on closer inspection of a map, I realized that I wasn’t quite that far on top of the globe.  Anyway, I went there to find out what it would be like to be in a place that was dark all day and to see the Northern Lights. (Yeah, I know.)

The truth is often surprising. In fact, it was NOT dark all day, but the day was short. The sun peaked over the mountains around 10:30 a.m., which is a helluva good time to wake up anyway. The sun made a shallow arc through the sky, and set around 4:30 p.m. And the sky was brilliantly blue all day. For someone who craves sunshine, it was a good place to visit.

Tales are tall in the North Country. I seemed to have arrived in a “heat wave” and daytime temperatures were a moderate -12 degrees Celsius. It dipped to -27 degrees around 2:00 in the morning the night I stayed up to watch (look for) the northern lights. In my mind, I would experience a psychedelic light show every night, from the confines of a warm cabin with a fire, but alas, it didn’t happen that way. In fact, the lights are sometimes elusive, and all I saw was a white strip that grew across the horizon around midnight. When photographed, the light showed up green (for reasons that were explained to me, but didn’t understand). I have photographs of me standing in front of some version of the aurora borealis, but it wasn’t really like that in reality. I will have to return another time for the full blown experience. However, I did get to go dog-sledding and that, is something that EVERYONE should do at least once in their lifetime! It was more fun that I have words to explain.

I was told that the month before, in December, the temperature dropped to -57 Celsius in a near-by town, but another local told me that it dipped to -67 degrees! I have no idea if this was truth or hyperbole, but I was happy to have arrived in the tropical season.

What does this have to do with outsider art? Well, forever on the search for outsider artists, I asked a few locals if they knew of any people who were a little out-of-the-ordinary, and created artwork, in private, in their homes. This question always got a similar answer: “You’re talking about just about everyone who lives here!” I learned that Yukoners call themselves “the colourful 5%” because they are the 5% of the Canadian population who live up north because they don’t fit in with the rest of the population. Well, this is the perfect breeding ground for outsider artists, but I didn’t manage to identify anyone who was the type of artist I was seeking. But I know they live there.

So, if any of my readers can provide me with further details, I’ll follow up. Thanks.