Scenic Adventures in the Yukon Territory

Reviewed: September 19, 2007
By: Chris Caldwell
Publisher: C. Caldwell Productions
138 pages, $59.95

With all the talk about disclosure in journalism and reviewing, I’d better admit up front that I got to read this book some time ago. Chris contacted me in the early spring and asked me to look the galley proofs over before it went to print. If you find any remaining misspellings or lapses in sentence structure (and there weren’t very many by the time I got to it) I’m the one to blame.

It was somewhat more than a simple read through, as you can guess from that description. You could read the book in a couple of hours, I’ll wager. I spent about 6 on it, and then had some fun looking at the pictures, prints of a number of which hang on our walls.

That sidesplitting Alaska Highway memorial poster from 1991, “Glory Road”, looks down on my desk every time I sit here to write. I’ve often thought of it as a metaphor for the odd journey my own life has taken.

The thing about Chris’s work is that that every picture is simply packed. In one interview I did with her some years ago, she admitted to taking a bit of a Mad Magazine approach to her work. “Glory Road”, since I’ve already mentioned it, has those poor shocked chaps in army fatigues facing an untamed wilderness of enormous bugs, slavering carnivores, tangled trees and swamps with looks of horror their faces. Their first nations guide rides in front, laconically picking his way through the mess and beckoning them on.

With Chris, every picture tells a story.

From the Bush Panic single panels of the early 1980s to the full colour paintings of today, Caldwell has always had a loving eye for the wonderful and the absurd. When you think of a musher and a dog team following a cat trail, you probably don’t come up wth quite the solution to be found on page 21, but when you see it, you find yourself nodding.

As for “How Legends are Made”, I confess I had never actually seen two dogs locked in that particular embrace until about my second year in Beaver Creek, and I didn’t know any more about it than the befuddled bankers in the painting.

“...And yet so far” on page 36, wth its baffled lynx could be about a lot more than just a frustrated fishing trip. Many individuals and town councils have been caught with that look on their faces.

“Hero in Red Serge” probably manages to incorporate just about every Mountie clichŽ that you can imagine.

Caldwell’s work has graced just about every organization and special event in the territory at one time or another. The fundraiser for the Whitehorse General Hospital’s Children’s Ward could be the starting point for many a story, while her posters for the Yukon Quest and the Canada Winter Games are a thorough delight.

One of my favorites, of course, is the one of the Challenge of the Century, the depiction of the truly unique Dawson City Oldtimer Nuggets hockey player facing off against a member of the Ottawa Senators. It’s a great picture.

This book is a pleasant walk through Chris’s history as an artist working in the Yukon. It contains just about every sort of art that she does: the posters, the paintings, the logo designs and even a generous selection of those hard to find Whitehorse Star Bush Panic cartoons from way back when.

We have to hope this sells well, because she’s already told us what her next project will be. The Petfolio: the Secret Lives of Pets and their People looks like it would be a scream.