Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Men With Strong Chins: The Mounties Are Back at the Tweed

ART SEEN

Over the weekend I went to see the two new exhibitions at the Tweed Museum on the UMD campus, A Thousand Words and Sinew. While there I also did a walk-through of the Mounties paintings selected from the Tweed collection. The title of this show is Maintain The Right.

I've looked at these paintings before when they were exhibited at various times in the past, but Saturday they seemed to take on a new significance. It became apparent that the Mounties were simply a variation on our comic book heroes like Batman and Spiderman. In reading up on the origin of this series I learned a number of interesting facts.

From 1937 to 1979, 16 different artists painted pictures of Royal Canadian Mounted Police for the Potlatch Paper Corporation. Arnold Friberg, who passed in 2010, was the most prolific, creating as many as 200 paintings, many of them donated here to the Tweed Museum of Art on the campus of UMD.

There is a marked wholesomeness about Friberg's Mounties. The broad shoulders, narrow hips and strong chin epitomize the superhero image. The Mounties may belong to our neighbors to the North, but they could easily become our own, exemplifying Superman's trademark motto, "Truth, justice and the American Way."

The Tweed's paintings of Mounties aren't continuously on display, though they do appear frequently in the rotation. I was unaware, till now, that Arnold Friberg received an Oscar for his contributions to Cecil B. DeMille's The Ten Commandments. Friberg's most significant painting was The Prayer at Valley Forge, a large piece depicting George Washington on bended knee, perhaps requesting God's protection and provision for our fledgling army of American revolutionaries. You will notice many similarities between this scene featuring a heroic character with his horse in a forest setting and these Mountie paintings.



If this were cropped, you might read this as a Mountie with a Centaur.
In remote regions, Mounties evidently perform the duties of a Justice of the Peace.
This being summer, the current Mountie exhibit at the Tweed is located in the small gallery usually devoted to student shows. All but one of the paintings are by Friberg, the last being a product of Robert Addison. You will notice that Addison's Mountie has more rounded, less chiseled, features. Like Friberg's, however, he's clean-cut, well-groomed, and an overall good-hearted guy.

Many of the photos in this blog post are close-ups from a more complicated painting. I'm drawing attention to the chins.

He's also a master storyteller. (Or are they playing charades?)
Robert Addison's Mountie has more rounded facial features, but is still warm-hearted.
An Interesting Aside
One of the first things I did when when I began my advertising career at Chromaline, now Ikonics, thirty years ago was to start a newsletter. Chromaline manufactured photostencil systems in the screen printing industry, so we named our newsletter Chroma-Lines. Creating a newsletter involves a number of decisions, among them being the look of the masthead, the official color scheme and font or fonts that will define the look. In printed media, one makes a paper selection. I chose a paper called Mountie Matte. It was a Potlatch paper that had a substantial, smooth feel while receiving the ink in a crisp, clean manner. In short, it looked good and felt good.

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On Another Topic
Tomorrow, July 5, marks the grand opening of AICHO's new gift shop, and visitors also will be able to tour AICHO's new urban garden project. The celebration will run all afternoon through 5 p.m., and is free and open to the public. The official ribbon cutting ceremony for the newly renamed Dr. Robert Powless Cultural Center is slated to begin at noon.  From there, AICHO will be open until 5:00 p.m. for visitors to stop in for refreshments, tour the building’s expanded urban garden project, and to shop during the grand opening of the Indigenous First Gift Shop. Staff and volunteers have been hard at work, transforming every remaining bare place in the Gimaajii building into efficient community spaces. Check it out.

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Meantime, have a really special -- and safe -- Fourth of July.

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