Book Review: The Good Lands • Canada Through the Eyes of Artists

Book Review: The Good Lands Canada Through the Eyes of Artists
Victoria Dickenson et al.

273 Pages • ISBN 978-1-77327-024-1

Photos by María Alejandra Gamboa

The Good Lands book launch was held at Parliament Hill where Senators, Indigenous people, artists, curators and all the team behind this book shared their experiences, anecdotes, and expectations with this project. More than colleagues, it was a meeting of friends who value the roots of their country and work for a Canada increasingly inclusive and aware of the benefits that nature has given.

This book was necessary for a country like Canada that is currently in the process of reconciliation with its past and with the First Nations. A book like this made it essential for Canadian society to open the eyes and value what nature has given us. The book opens the doors to reflection and commitment to building a better future for future generations and, above all, allows us to think about how we have valued each beautiful Canadian corner.

An image says more than a thousand words as well as a photograph, painting and an expression of Canadian art opens the imagination for us to connect with each of the works that appear there. Behind each photo, there is an artist, and with each artist, there are a stories, dreams, and motivations, all together in a book, and for the same country: Canada.

In the book, Victoria Dickenson says that “this book began in the spring of 2016 as a conversation between curators and writers about how we see and understand Canada through the works of our artists. (…) We talked about how artists depict not only the view but also what lies beneath –how their visions inform the way we live on these lands.”

Dickenson also shares that “we also noted how few books have celebrated the landscapes that we cherish. A book is not simply a vehicle for ideas; it is a meaningful object in itself, a gift that can be shared from generation to generation, from community to community.”

This book celebrates this country and honours the beauty and power of our shared spaces. In looking through the eyes of our artists, we are reminded that the land holds us, not we the land, and that we share our territories with other sentient beings, with trees and grass, with rocks and rivers.

One of those well-known artists who participated in this memorable project is Marc Audette, a visual artist who has had several gallery and museum exhibitions. His passion is to travel and capture the best moments, spaces and corners that nature gives us and that we often leave behind. For him, a particular moment can become a timeless work.

Expo 67 celebrated our coming of age as a modern, bilingual, bicultural nation – a place where anyone from any culture could thrive. But in his public address at the festivities, Chief Dan George lamented what Canada’s centennial did not celebrate: the colonization and marginalization of indigenous people who lived on these “good lands.” Now in the year of Canada’s 150th birthday, we honour a new understanding of our past. We have begun –at long last- to share in a process of national reconciliation and to come together to reimagine our contribution to a global future.

Artists give form and meaning to both the land and the invisible landscape of the spirit, both past and the future. The works of Canada’s artists –both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, historical and contemporary- invite us to see our country and our place within it with new eyes. This book celebrates their visions, as well as the good lands we have shared and shaped for millennia that, in turn, have shaped us.