Portraits of the North – Meeting Gerald Kuehl

The portrait of Betsy Anderson that I stared at while waiting for Gerald to take the floor is mesmerizing. Her toothless smile, deeply lined skin and worn kerchief tell a story I know I want to hear, and Gerald Kuehl tells it.

Betsy Anderson - Portrait of the North

Betsy Anderson

Betsy is 101 years old in this photo, and will go on to live to 104. She was a hunter and a trapper but her people fell into hard times when they were relocated to Churchill, Manitoba.

About Gerald Kuehl

I knew very little about the artist or his works before this evening. He grew up in Pinawa but left just before I arrived. I’m only here because the Pinawa Library invited him and it looked like an interesting evening.

Gerald Kuehl is a life-long artist who has spent the past twenty years drawing portraits of Canada’s indigenous people.  It’s clear from his opening statements that Gerald is not only dedicated, but emotionally connected to his work. His voice breaks in near tears as he describes some of his subjects.

Meeting Gerald Kuehl

In his talk, Gerald gave us the story behind the story. He regaled us with tales of a trip to the Tadoule Lake community by winter ice road in a beat up, mostly homemade jeep. He painted a grim picture of the trials and horrors our indigenous people have suffered, in Residential schools and in relocations, all in a personal story format. His writing rivals his artistry for brilliance.

Gerald spent his formative years in Pinawa, from the age of nine to his graduation from the Pinawa high school. Although he’s been gone for many years, he still says he is “from” Pinawa.  As is the way with my beautiful little town, the community was out in force to celebrate the success of one of their own.  His teachers are now grey hairs and so are some of his classmates. The library was full. Portraits of the North sits on my desk waiting to be read. Each page is a portrait and a story of only 540 words.

For more information about Gerald and his work visit

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