Yellowknife artist Lynn La Saga has been holding a juicy secret for nearly half a year, but last week she was finally allowed to let it all out.
Northwestel revealed on Thursday that La Saga’s artwork has been chosen to grace the cover of the new phone directory from Mar. 2014 to Feb. 2015.
La Saga told The Journal she learned her artwork had won Northwestel’s annual contest in November and has been struggling to keep the secret from her friends and family since then.
“I had a really long time to sit on this and it was very, very hard,” La Saga said with a laugh. “I’ve gotten used to not talking about it so a couple of my best friends, I forgot to tell them until yesterday!”
La Saga’s winning art piece is an oil painting called Fading Giant that depicts Yellowknife’s infamous Giant Mine.
“I’ve always had a fascination with (Giant Mine) and I personally have always thought it was very beautiful in a desolate, barren way.”
La Saga said her attraction to dilapidated, weathered buildings was fostered as a child growing up in northern Saskatchewan where there were plenty around to draw. When she moved to Yellowknife five years ago, the mine was a point of reference that her new community would frequently discuss.
“It’s always been a part of the landscape and it’s still very much in Yellowknife’s collective conscious, so it’s always been an important symbol for me since I moved to Yellowknife,” La Saga said. “I felt its importance and when people would talk about it, some people were stoked, some people were angry about the effects on the environment, but it’s always been a topic of controversy.”
When she was driving past Giant Mine last year, the artist said she snapped a photo of the defunct site with storm clouds in the distance and a ray of setting sun glinting off its steel structure.
“It was just glowing with that sunset,” La Saga said. “It just really spoke to me. It spoke to my heart. So much of art is a mystery.”
Hearing from a friend about the Northwestel art contest last fall, La Saga drummed up the picture from her phone and sat down to paint the iconic mine. She said she was amazed to hear last November that her piece was chosen for the new phone book.
Currently working as an instructor with the Yellowknife Association for Community Living, La Saga paints in her spare time and, like most artists who hold day jobs, said she has days where she struggles with confidence.
“Creativity for me is a challenge. It’s hard sometimes. I’ve always had to struggle with my inner critic, so being chosen for this…was really affirming for me to say, OK, on the days I don’t feel like an artist, there are others who think that I am,” La Saga said. “It will remind me that I need to believe in myself a little bit more.”
The original painting of Fading Giant will be kept in Northwestel’s permanent collection and around 70 prints have been made and signed by La Saga.
The Yellowknife artist also received $2,000 in winnings, which she said were put away in a savings account that she one day hopes will have enough money in it from her future artwork to set up a grant for young artists.
“I believe you become an artist when you are very, very young, when you are at the table with your baba. That’s the first time I felt like an artist. I want to create funding for that age group – quite young artists,” she said.