Singer’s art graces phone book cover

Tanya Tagaq Gillis is a woman of many talents



Tanya Tagaq Gillis will soon have a presence in homes and offices all across Nunavut.

Cambridge Bay’s most famous musical talent is also an accomplished visual artist, and one of her works now graces Northwestel’s latest telephone book.

“Health,” an oil painting measuring 41 cm x 51 cm, is a portrait of an Inuk woman with a white fur collar and sealskin coat. Hues of turquoise and blue swirl behind her head and shoulders.

The 26-year-old Gillis, most widely known for her throat-singing prowess, studied at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in the 1990s, planning to become a visual artist and art teacher.

But it was her musical endeavours, including an international tour with Icelandic musician Bjork, that took her in another direction.

Gillis, speaking on the phone from her apartment in Montreal, said while music is one of her creative outlets, her painting is still of equal importance. Having her art work seen by whoever needs to look up a phone number will only heighten her exposure.

“I’m sure it will, because every person’s going to see it,” she said. “Right now I’m known as a singer, and it’d be nice if people knew that I do art work too.”

Gillis’ father entered her work in a contest sponsored by NorthwesTel. It was chosen from 55 eligible works submitted from all across the North.

“I’ve done everything, from landscapes to portraits to mythology to reality. I like doing a little bit of everything and not everything ends up in the gallery,” she said.

Working solely in oils, Gillis said she has been painting since she was a young girl, and is excited to see the phone book when she returns home.

But she has a few obligations to fulfill before she boards a plane North. In April she is off to Spain to record a CD with her boyfriend, who plays a traditional Basque instrument.

“He rented a studio in the Pyrenees Mountains,” she said laughing. From there she will join the Sonic Weave tour in Europe, which features a group of Canada’s best folk and world music artists. Then she’ll be coming home to Cambridge Bay.

“I’ve had enough of the city, it’s driving me crazy,” she admitted.

Gillis, who is still an independent musician, said she’s hoping her own CD will be released in the very near future.

“It’s just a question of finding advertising and finding what the final CD should be. We don’t know if we should put remixes in and there’s all these decisions that take forever to make,” she said.

In the meantime, Gillis’ fans can take solace in the fact that they can view some of her art online on her Web site, or that of Nor-Art in Yellowknife.

And for those without an Internet connection? Well, they will just have to make do with gazing at the cover of their phone books.

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