I think even Russell Smith would agree that there was a more than a fair share of irony at work this week in Ottawa. Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his new cabinet posed before a huge work of art, done by one of Canada’s best and most recognized artists, Norval Morrisseau. I don’t doubt the appreciation some Conservatives (or politicians of other parties) might have for the work, but to have Harper sitting in the front row, grinning beside Governor-General Michaelle Jean, was quite funny.
You might recall Harper’s mid-election statement referring to artists and their galas, and equating culture with elitism. Hmm. Well it made for a nice photo anyway. Adding to the irony (or just plain absurdity) is 1/ the fact that Morrisseau was a native artist (and, um, you may recall what happened with the Kelowna accord after Harper and the Conservatives were voted in in 2006); 2/ the title of said painting is called Androgyny (and most people are aware of the Conservatives’ stand on gay marriage, right?). I don’t mean to draw lines where there aren’t any -it simply gives one (or me) food for thought.
I’m happy to see this painting being so prominently displayed for all Canadians to enjoy, and frankly, I’m glad Mme. Jean brought it to the House. I’m even more proud to see the most recently voted-in government standing before it. I hope they turned around afterwards and had a good look. Art isn’t merely decorative. In Norval Morrisseau’s case, it was his life.