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In his quest to create a portrait of Canada, artist Douglas Coupland hit the mall – or at least, Canadian department stores. Beginning in 2015, Coupland set up shop at Simons stores across the country, where, using a bank of 3-D printers, he scanned some 1,700 shoppers, who each received a five-centimetre bust. For Coupland, that was just the beginning. He then digitally manipulated the busts, printed and painted them. In an ode to the aesthetics of retail display, he organized them on risers in a six-by-six-metre group formation – mannequins without the bodies. The National Portrait, which opened just before Canada Day at the Ottawa Art Gallery, includes about 1,000 printed heads, ranging from five to 96 cm tall. “It’s the first time possibly in material history where you can be completely cavalier with people’s heads,” Coupland said while at work on the piece at an old Vancouver furniture shop he turned into a studio for the large-scale project. His favourite elements include an Acadian man sporting a Mohawk (scanned in the final hours of the project in Halifax); a golden lumberjack (found shopping in the toque department of the West Vancouver store); and a Cree chief who came to the Calgary event. “He showed up with a headdress,” Coupland says. “I was, like, thank you gods of scanning.” The National Portrait is at The Ottawa Art Gallery June 29-Aug 19.

  • The National Portrait opened just before Canada Day at the Ottawa Art Gallery.Lawrence Cook

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