Getting to Know Jean-Paul Lemieux

Jean-Paul Lemieux's Evening Visitor, 1956, at the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa

On Saturday afternoon I took a drive out to the McMichael Canadian Art Collection. The gallery is just outside of Toronto — in Kleinburg, near Canada’s Wonderland — but it’s log-and-stone buildings and treed surrounds makes the place feel like an Algonquin retreat. It’s a refreshing escape so close to the city, and while there I was delighted to discover a great Canadian artist that I hadn’t previously heard about: Jean-Paul Lemieux. I only noticed a couple of the Quebecer’s works among all the pieces by Tom Thomson, Emily Carr and the Group of Seven, but Lemieux’s paintings made an impression with their minimal, graphic quality. I like how he captured the desolate, vast landscape of rural Quebec — in particular the harsh, snowy weather and long grey skies.

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An openly gay jock? Yes, it’s possible.

Today, I read about a young gay athlete from Ottawa named Scott Heggart, and have just watched some of his many YouTube videos detailing how he came out to his friends and family. I am really impressed by how articulate he is, especially at such a young age. He started making his video journal when he was 15, and he’s now 19.

I’m also impressed by how brave he is. As an athlete who plays aggressive team sports like hockey, he must have felt immense social pressure (whether explicit or implicit) to suppress his feelings and try to be straight. He seems like a regular, quite masculine teenager (the kind that no one would ever suspect of being gay), so he could have probably coasted for years and years without ever needing to tell anyone. No one would have blamed him if he had chosen to wait until after college, or after he moved out of his parent’s house, or until after he relocated to a bigger, more gay-friendly city. But in choosing to be open about his sexuality at such a young, vulnerable age, he’s done something extraordinary, and will no doubt inspire others.

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