Diana Thorneycroft: Canada, Myth, and History, Group of Seven Awkward Moments Series

Bob and Doug McKenzie having a final brewski before being devoured by wolves. Santa Claus meeting a bad end. The Trailer Park Boys communing with nature. A bear aiming a pistol at Winnie the Pooh. In Group of Seven Awkward Moments, Winnipeg artist Diana Thorneycroft takes historical Canadian landscapes by the Group of Seven, Tom Thomson, and Emily Carr, and combines them with complex dioramas she has constructed using dolls, toys, and other found objects.

Thorneycroft then records her “awkward” compositions of miniature models and distorted background landscapes through the camera lens. The resulting photographs convey a clichéd representation of the unique Canadian experience. The Awkward Moments are images of everyday contemporary life and historical events familiar to many Canadians. They represent historical figures, celebrated personalities, pop culture characters, and the general public absorbed in social activities (such as fishing, camping, and skating) that tell the stories of Canada. Although the images appear to engage in harmless parody of a people focused on daily mundane pursuits, they also point to issues that are unpleasant, and uncover the “reality” that the Canadian condition is not that perfect. The very same images that boost national pride are also marred by references to identity crisis, social anxiety and apathy, existential absurdity, environmental destruction, and human propensity to violence.

The Awkward Moments are fraught with contradictions and forced ambiguity, oscillating between fact and fiction, child-play and adult situations, comedy and tragedy. The landscape paintings of the Group of Seven provide a historical context for the theme of national and cultural identity, and a link to past or common ideological constructs of Canada. Over the course of the 20th century these historical paintings have come to signify Canadian identity through their connection to the land. Thorneycroft’s appropriation of the historical paintings as backgrounds to images reflecting tainted and banal realities removes them from their original idealized context, thus deconstructing not only their established myth but that of the nation they symbolize.

Curated by Sharona Adamowicz-Clements, Assisatnt Curator, McMichael Canadian Art Collection. Organized by the McMichael Canadian Art Collection. Supported by the Canada Council for the Arts.

Video Inspired by Art

My Story and I'm Sticking to it!!! features visitors to the Winnipeg Art Gallery telling stories of sticking their tongues to frozen metal. The story-telling took place in the midst of artist Diana Thorneycroft's exhibition "Canada, Myth and History". One of the most popular photographs in the show depicts children sticking their tongues to a frozen Canadian flag pole.

Norma Bailey: producer, Diana Thorneycroft: concept, Shawna Townley: camera, Robert Lower: editor


Diana Thorneycroft, <Group of Seven Awkward Moments (Winter on the Don), 2007..

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Related Programs & Events

Past Programs & Events

  • Members' event

    Thursday, June 17, 2010 from 12pm to 7:30pm

  • public opening - Diana Thorneycroft: Canada, Myth and History

    Thursday, June 17, 2010 from 7:30pm to 10pm

  • Canadian Art Highlights Tours

    Wednesday, July 7, 2010 from 2pm to 2:30pm
    Wednesday, July 14, 2010 from 2pm to 2:30pm
    Wednesday, July 21, 2010 from 2pm to 2:30pm
    Wednesday, July 28, 2010 from 2pm to 2:30pm
    Wednesday, August 4, 2010 from 2pm to 2:30pm
    Wednesday, August 11, 2010 from 2pm to 2:30pm
    Wednesday, August 18, 2010 from 2pm to 2:30pm
    Wednesday, August 25, 2010 from 2pm to 2:30pm


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