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Master carver tackles a new medium in exhibit opening at the Hilltop Bistro

January 11, 2018

WHITEHORSE—Kaska artist Dennis Shorty is sharing his family stories through a new display opening this month in the Hilltop Bistro at Yukon College. Shorty is known for his antler and wood carving, but this show will feature his most recent works in watercolour and ink.

“I wanted to try something new and expand my artistic endeavours,” said the Ross River-based artist.

The striking series of paintings is based on stories his grandfather told him as a young child, before he was taken to Lower Post residential school at age five. One image shows Shorty’s grandfather poised with an archer’s bow. It depicts a family story from a time before the Klondike Gold Rush.

“My grandmother and grandfather were sitting by a campfire, and they saw a caribou on top of a nearby mountain,” Shorty said. “They didn’t have rifles back then, so my grandfather climbed the mountain—quickly and quietly—to sneak up on the caribou with his bow and arrow.”

Once in position he drew back the bow, but he pulled it too far and it broke in two. The snapping noise alerted the caribou to danger and it raised its head to look around. Shorty’s grandfather hid low in the buckbrush until the animal finally went back to grazing.

“Quick as can be, he grabbed a stick and carved it into a bow,” Shorty said with a smile, “and he climbed back up and he got that caribou.”

Creating this series of paintings helped Shorty to remember the happier times of his early childhood, and to resolve some of the trauma that came after.

“I want these paintings to show people that they have a way to heal from whatever they’ve encountered in their lives—mission schools or the ‘60s Scoop or being a second-generation survivor,” he said. “I want to show the good side.”

The exhibit, which features nine paintings and three framed carvings, is called My Childhood Memories. All of the pieces in the show are for sale, and Shorty will also be selling a selection of his copper and antler jewelry at the opening reception. All proceeds from sales will go directly to the artist.

The Hilltop Bistro is a training facility for Yukon College Culinary Arts students. It is open Tuesday through Friday for lunch between 11:00 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. beginning on Tuesday, January 16. Reservations are required, and can be booked by emailing [email protected]

To find out more about the Bistro visit:

Everyone is welcome to attend the opening reception of My Childhood Memories from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Monday, January 22 at the Bistro. Refreshments will be served.


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