The Stained Glass Mural
A massive work in acrylic resins by by David Maclagan
in the Yukon Government Administration Building
Photographs by Murray Lundberg
Dateline: February 5, 2014.
Whitehorse has some excellent public art, including paintings of all sizes, murals, tapestries, sculptures, and stained glass. The most notable of the latter is a massive one by British Columbia artist David Maclagan, located in the lobby of the Yukon Government Administration Building on Second Avenue (the YTG building).
The mural, although it looks like stained glass, is actually made of stabilized polyester resins cast onto a reinforced fiberglas backing between metal-impregnated "lead lines". At 120 feet long, it's believed to be among the largest of its kind in the world. Finished in 1976 to coincide with the opening of the new building, the mural consists of 24 4x5-foot panels that portray the history of what is now the Yukon Territory.
Several of the panels are being removed one by one over several years to repair what seems to be a separation of the layers that's causing dark spots to appear in several of the panels.
David Maclagan was living in West Vancouver when he created this piece, later lived in Chilliwack, and now lives in Great Britain near the University of Sheffield where he occasionally lectures. He has worked in a wide array of artistic media over the past four decades, and has published several books and numerous articles on art (drawing in particular), Outsider Art, art therapy and imaginal psychology.
Sponges of the Cambian Age 500 million years ago form into the rising mountains of the Palaeozoic era 150-400 million years back. Warm seas rise, giving birth to the herring-like fish and giant reptiles of 100 million years ago.
The seas subside, and the giant reptiles give way to mammoths who roam the prehistoric landscape.
The land that is now the Yukon continues to develop, with mountains rising, lava flowing and forests growing.
The Yukon's first people are represented by their art. A drum, a bird, and animal spirits including a Gwich'in bear are shown blending into a grizzly.
Sir John Franklin arrives at Herschel Island in 1825.
Panels 6, 7
Fur traders arrive from eastern Canada and beyond, using the rivers as their main highways. The Hudson's Bay Company establishes Fort Yukon in 1867 and the European fur trade era begins.
With the aurora borealis overhead, the stained glass windows of St. Paul's church in Dawson City, built in 1897, symbolize the arrival of Christian missionaries among the trappers, the Natives and the prospectors.
The first discovery of gold by the Rev. Robert McDonald in 1863, with prospectors and their dog sleds, and the aurora borealis in the background.
The Northern Lights sweep forward and turn into gold to mark the discovery of gold in the Klondike on August 17, 1896. The Northwest Mounted Police patrol the Chilkoot Pass during the ensuing stampede, and ensure that the thousands of boats built at Lake Bennett will withstand the journey down the Yukon River.
Stampeders on their way to the Klondike gold fields, crossing Lake Bennett in a flotilla of makeshift boats following the ice breakup in the Spring of 1898.
Behind the first White Pass & Yukon Route train to reach Bennett on July 6, 1899, the Midnight Sun dips near the horizon and then rises into the sky again without setting.
Prospecting and gold mining evolves from gold pans and pick and shovel to rocker boxes, steam boilers, hydraulic monitors, and eventually to the large dredges.
In the mountains beyond the goldfields, with King Solomon's Dome towering above, live many animals including Dall sheep.
The first Royal Mail stage leaves Whitehorse for Dawson on the Overland Trail in 1903.
Asters and wild roses represent the many species of wildflowers that brighten up the roadsides and the wilderness throughout the territory in the summer.
Panels 17, 18
The asters and wild roses blend into the current of the Yukon River and the smoke of one of the sternwheelers that used to ply the rivers of the territory.
Gold fever subsides and life stabilizes, symbolized by the Dawson public school.
The coming of the automobile. The Yukon Sun newspaper reported in September of 1901 that there were three automobiles in the Dawson area, and in 1912 the first car made the rough trip from Whitehorse to Dawson.
Many men from the Yukon enlisted in the Boer War and World War I. The first commercial airplane to operate in the Yukon was the Ryan B-1 Brougham known as the Queen of the Yukon, featured in this panel. A full-size replica of that aircraft now hangs in the Yukon Transportation Museum.
"By the graves of the Klondikers" - the end of an era and the birth of a new one, with the end profile of a quonset hut and the American Army Air Force insignia at the top heralding construction of the Alaska Highway, seen wandering through the hills in the middle.
The Alaska Highway disappears into the hills below the silhouette of a caribou, and an Arctic grayling swims in a creek below a large fireweed blooming behind the Yukon coat of arms.
The spheres represent the unknown, suggesting the future. The blank space is for more of the exciting story of the Yukon to be written.