About the Artist
Michel was born in Quebec City in 1957 and had an early interest in the arts and carving. At a young age he was already using wood working tools and assisting his father in the manufacture of toys and furniture. At school in shop he honed his wood working skills and excelled in art classes and even won art competitions. After his education Michel's familiarity with the handling of wood came while restoring old Quebec furniture and seeing how older generations of wood workers had completed their tasks. Utilizing his knowledge of wood and the effect of time and wear on wood and it's finishes he developed a technique to reproduce the same effects on an object that had gone through a century of use. Michel then slowly started to constructed his own creations and give them a finish and patina resembling an antique piece.
Comments on the Work
The canoe collection includes two of Michel Fortin's painted wood sculptures; the larger work "Chasse-Galerie" and a smaller piece "Coureurs de Bois." Both works are carved from pine in a traditional way and the different pieces in each are dowelled, pegged and painted with different colours recreating an antique look. "The Flying Canoe" or "Chasse-Galerie" is regarded as one of Michel's masterpieces. The carving is based upon a popular Quebecois folk tale of voyageurs, making a deal with the devil to get them through a tough situation. The stern paddler is sometimes thought to be the devil. There are eight people five of which are seated paddlers (there traditionally were no seats in the early fur trade canoes) all set into a Montreal style canoe. Two of the occupants have their heads down perhaps hoping they will make it through and the person at the bow has a bottle of liquor (?) in his hand perhaps to ease the current situation. The canoe itself is sitting a top a small sphere perhaps representing the globe and the globe itself has it's own coloured and multi-levelled base. The piece "Coureurs de Bois" (a historical term loosely translated as runner of the woods) represents an independent French-Canadian trader who travelled in New France and the interior of North America to trade with the First Nations peoples. These traders were part of the beginning of the fur trade in North America. As illustrated by these two works Michel has constructed unique additions to the canoe collection showcasing the importance of the canoe in the history and development of Canada.