Danny Boy: You Can't Do That, named after two Beatles songs, consists of multiple seal skin “vinyl” covers that re-create a depiction of each of The Beatles albums. The seal skin shaped album covers follow the format of a 12”x12” vinyl record sleeve. This work addresses issues around the seal hunt brought up in the memorable Larry King Live interview in March 2006 between then Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, Danny Williams, and The Beatles frontman Paul McCartney.
This has been an ongoing work in progress since 2011, but May 2014 marked the official production and undertaking when the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council provided a project grant to complete the proposed project. Through the NLAC funding and utilizing technology such as a Laser Cutter at the University of British Columbia, Okanagan
I was thinking about how strong of a tie Newfoundlanders had to our home land, our hunting grounds and how we have utilized the land and seas for thousands of years. Around this time I was developing ideas around artifacts, such as my Skateboard Snowshoe work, jiligami'no shoe, I was beginning the touring of Turning Tables, and working around the idea of the Ready-made. Each of these works intends to display how we are informed of our history, be it through traditional craft work such as beadwork, leather work, or animal hair shaping, or through contemporary art forms such as painting, sculpture or video.
I have done extensive research into the methods of Seal skin shaping and have knowledge of working in similar mediums with such works as my Artifact Bags. This work is a continuation in the same vein of my previous works, turning the perspective of both traditional and contemporary art forms to make a social-political commentary on indigenous issues, livelihood and our ties to our province as traditional people. The work hopes to bring to light the trials and tribulations of this ancient tradition of hunting seals, and utilizing what the animal provides us, sustenance and warmth.
The carvings that I am in the process of creating are a re-take on the imagery from the albums created between 1963-1970. These carvings will stay true to the original imagery, yet the context and dialogue will change due to the use of materials, making a commentary on the history of sealing in our province and how it is being misrepresented in the media through celebrity interventions. This artwork addresses the political and social changes in Newfoundland around the seal fishery; how it was and still is a source of income, sustenance and shelter for many people in our province.
Sealing has been a practice by traditional peoples of this land for thousands of years, particularly the Inuit and Innu of the North, and Beothuk of the province. Every part of the animal is utilized to its full potential. These traditions and hunting practices have been passed from generation to generation with very little changes to the harvesting process and until very recently there was little to no concern of sealing in our province until it was brought into the limelight through celebrity ad campaigning.
The recent uprising of celebrity animal activists against the sealing industry in our province is fuelled by a lack of: factual knowledge of the process and the importance of the cultural and historical significance of sealing. The work intends to turn the tables on the discussion by practicing a traditional art form to raise the larger issue of wrongful publicity through celebrity intervention.