Elinor Whidden

Artist Bio

Elinor Whidden received a BA in Canadian/Environmental Studies from Trent University, a BFA from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design and a MFA from the State University of New York at Buffalo.  She has exhibited throughout North America, recently showing work in Newfoundland, Ontario, British Columbia and Detroit, MI.  In 2007 she attended the Walking and Art residency at the Banff Centre for the Arts and in 2013 she was part of the VSVSVS Summery Residency program in Toronto. Whidden is the recipient of numerous grants and awards from the Canada Council for the Arts, Ontario Arts Council and from the Toronto Arts Council. Her work has been included in various biennials including the 2010 exhibition of Beyond/In Western New York and Show11 in Cambridge ON. Whidden recently had a selection of her car themed work currated into a large solo exhibition titled Rearview at the University of Waterloo Art Gallery.

VOYAGEUR statement for FAAS 5

Artist Elinor Whidden uses humour, heroics and history to critique contemporary car culture. Dressed as a modern-day Voyageur she turns old cars into canoes, knapsacks, snowshoes, walking sticks and other modes of transportation used during the opening of the Western Frontier. These objects are then portaged, dragged, or carried along early fur trade routes. During these car-carrying performances, the waterways and trade routes of this historic period stand in as the forefathers to our current system of highways, freeways and over-passes.

This May Whidden will break camp at Sudbury’s Elgin/Larch parking lot to trade with the locals and portage along sections of the Trans Canada Highway’s Voyageur Route. Her car-carrying adventures are often ridiculous and futile, but they articulate what she sees as the flawed relationship between humans and the automobile. Scavenging both from the colonial pages of history and the scrap yards of our present day she re-stages contemporary versions of historical moments to question our nostalgia for these fictional narratives.  Whidden’s work suggests that the colonial attitudes employed during the opening up of the Western Frontier remain with us today, underpinning our desire for the freedom and romance of the open road.

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