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Never having visited our friendly Canadian neighbor to the north, when the opportunity presented itself to take a trip over to the Canadian embassy, I couldn’t say no. As a self-proclaimed art nerd and as someone who has yet to visit the home of Niagara Falls, maple leaves, and Justin Trudeau, I spent an afternoon at the Canadian embassy’s Into the Arctic exhibit. (Trudeau wasn’t there, but man do I wish he was).

Let me preface this by saying that upon hearing the name of the exhibit, I was under the impression that the entirety of it was going to be a completely immersive physical experience of what it’s like to be in the remote Canadian arctic. I was wrong. Like, way wrong. In fact, the only frigid breeze I was hit by was the one coming from the revolving door around the corner. I didn’t even know that the Canadian Embassy was home to an art gallery before it was brought to my attention. So even though I didn’t get that completely physical experience I was looking for, the artwork on display did have me thinking I was really in the Canadian arctic for a few hours.

The exhibit is home to some pretty spectacular paintings by Canadian artist, explorer, and filmmaker Cory Trépanier. Trépanier, having braved the remote unexplored arctic, captures the beauty of what lies beyond the border. Magnificent glaciers, breathtaking landscapes, and more. It’s like setting foot in the arctic without leaving the comfort (and warmth) of the embassy’s gallery.

Despite being smack in the middle of D.C. (the embassy and gallery are located next to the Newseum and the Capitol Building is just a few blocks away), I really felt like I was in Canada for the afternoon. Among quintessentially D.C. attractions, I pictured myself a few extra miles north. I didn’t hop on a plane and jet across the border, but stepping into the Canadian embassy meant I was officially on Canadian turf. I was now (technically) in Canada. I stood in an empty gallery taking in images of remote landscapes I didn’t know existed in a beautiful country I’d never visited. But being in the embassy itself made me feel as if I didn’t wake up in D.C. that day. Instead, it felt as if I had woken up in the remote tundra that lies beyond the border, making my experience that much more worthwhile. Alone in the gallery, I experienced a makeshift remoteness that helped me imagine just what it was like for Trépanier up there in arctic.

Naturally, I had a few burning questions in my brain as I passed from painting to painting.  Trépanier did spend serious quality time up there just so gallery-goers like myself could experience the arctic, even if from a distance. Massive landscapes and breathtaking glaciers all in their Canadian glory! As I moved through the gallery trying to put myself in his shoes, I had to get over the sheer mental block that is my aversion for being anywhere colder than my age. This is when the questions started forming in my brain.

I wonder how many layers he needed just so his fingers didn’t freeze off when he started sketching? The standard answer for any arctic adventure is about three (foundation, mid, and outer layers), including items for your hands, head, and feet (hats, gloves, boots, etc).

Canada’s pretty big, how many glaciers are up there? Answer: as of 2010, 17,595 glaciers exist in British Columbia and Alberta.

What does water sound like when it crashes on ice? Apparently, like a lightsaber.

How did Trépanier not just quit after one day of being up there? This is the easiest answer of them all: his pure passion for bringing the wilderness onto the canvas.

So what’s the final verdict on Canadian art, you ask? It’s pretty damn awesome. It’s no Michelangelo work from the renaissance, you’re not in Italy or the Italian embassy. You’re in Canada and the country is more than moose, Canadian bacon, and a great world leader (can you tell I have a think for Justin Trudeau?). It’s home to a beautiful wilderness that Trépanier captured on his canvas. The art opens a window into an otherwise remote area, just so embassy visitors and gallery-goers can see what Canada has to offer beyond what we already know. If you’ve got the time, go get to know the arctic over at the Canadian embassy, the exhibit runs through February 28. Wear three layers and a fuzzy hat for added arctic effect.

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