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Bruce MacKinnon exhibit in Port Hawkesbury starting Nov. 26

Bruce MacKinnon’s Sir J.A. Macdonald caricature-portrait is an example of the work which is part of the exhibit.
Bruce MacKinnon’s Sir J.A. Macdonald caricature-portrait is an example of the work which is part of the exhibit. - Contributed

Opening reception Nov. 25 at 2 p.m.

PORT HAWKESBURY, N.S. - The artwork of accomplished Chronicle Herald editorial cartoonist Bruce MacKinnon will be featured in a solo exhibition, Nov. 26 to Feb. 17, 2019, at the Port Hawkesbury Civic Centre.

The exhibit, curated by David Diviney – curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia – features MacKinnon’s caricature-portraits of Canada’s prime ministers. The show premiered in Halifax in August of 2017 and this will be its second time hanging in Port Hawkesbury.

“Included in the exhibition are examples of works-on-paper and paintings created by MacKinnon, between 1993 and 2017, that together depict all 23 prime ministers, from Sir John A. Macdonald to Justin Trudeau,” a release announcing the exhibit, noted.

“Through MacKinnon’s signature wit and brand of satire, these works make visible the politics and events that have helped shape our country’s history and the society in which we live today.”

In an email interview with the Casket, MacKinnon, an Antigonish native, talked about his favourite prime minister to draw from a visual standpoint.

“That would be Brian Mulroney. It may be because he was the prime minister I cut my teeth on at the beginning of my career, but I think it has more to do with the mass of puffy, wrinkled real estate that is his face. There’s just so much to work with there,” MacKinnon wrote.

“Male politicians rarely change their hairstyle so there was always the little wave/flip above his forehead. As far as major identifiers were concerned, if you drew a big jaw, people knew it was Mulroney. But beyond that and the rising, puppy dog eyebrows, small mouth and arched nose ridge, there was just so much detail you could play with in terms of the bags under the eyes, wrinkles and moguls in the skin. He was a true crosshatcher’s playground.”

As for whether he ever received feedback directly from a prime minister about their caricature, he noted Kim Campbell is the lone name on that list.

“I met her at an editorial board meeting during a stopover on her one and only election campaign,” MacKinnon wrote.

“She didn’t have anything particularly critical to say about the way I portrayed her, though few truly sensible politicians really want to pick that fight in the middle of an election campaign. Politicians, as a general rule, don’t tend to contact cartoonists directly, if they have something to say about the cartoons. Often they will comment through their staff or aides.

“I was once informed by a Liberal, who claimed to be close to Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, that he wanted a cartoon I had done of him during the Gomery inquiry and had invited me to meet him at his residence in Ottawa with the cartoon. Kind of an odd request, and I respectfully declined. I think keeping those relationships at arms- length is probably a wise policy.”

Close to home

The exhibit includes an opening reception event, Nov. 25 at 2 p.m., at the J. Franklin Wright Gallery. MacKinnon will be on-hand for the free event; and while there is no admission, those planning to attend are asked to reserve seats through the civic centre box office. 

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MacKinnon talked about having an exhibit close to his hometown.

“It’s always nice to come back to the Antigonish/Strait area because it was my home for most of my formative years,” he said. “I spent most all my school years, from elementary right through to my first few years of university, in Antigonish, and I spent a lot of time playing hockey against the Strait Pirates.

“I have a lot of great memories from those years and even though it’s been 40 years since I moved away, I’ve always been surprised and humbled by the support I receive when I go back home.”

He talked more about creating the exhibit.

“The show was originally put together in response to a request by the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia to create an exhibit of all of Canada’s prime ministers to mark the 150th anniversary of confederation in 2017,” MacKinnon noted.

“I created most of the caricatures of the prime ministers in the one-year period leading up to the sesquicentennial, using a variety of styles and media ranging from pen, ink and watercolour to acrylic on canvas.

“Each caricature endeavours to reflect at least one memorable aspect of that prime minister’s legacy. There is one caricature of each prime minister from Sir John A. Macdonald right through to Kim Campbell. Caricatures of the more recent prime ministers, from Mulroney onward, were drawn from work I had done for the Herald over the last 30 years. I have included three caricatures of each of those prime ministers.”

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