As you can see from this photo I’m having a delightful time! Recently I had the privilege of taking a group of people from Siloam Mission through the Winnipeg Art Gallery. I usually give tours to school groups so I am always a little apprehensive when I’m asked to guide adults. I needn’t have worried! The experience with the Siloam community was great ! In this photo we are looking at a painting by the great Canadian artist Emily Carr. One of my tour participants knew so much about Emily and her work. I learned a lot from him. And there were other people on my tour who taught me things about Chagall and Rembrandt and Inuit whale bone sculptures and the art of scrimshaw. I had heard of Siloam and the work they do but I have never visited their location on Princess Street. It was an eye-opening experience to meet and learn from the Siloam Mission folks. In this photo we are looking at work by Winnipeg’s own Wanda Koop. Wanda who has an important international presence in the art world hails from inner city Winnipeg and took her first art classes at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. She won those lessons in a contest and it set her on the road to a remarkable career. The Siloam visitors were so interested in her story.
Rachel Baerg the Head of Education at the Winnipeg Art Gallery led another tour group from Siloam
One of the reasons I love working at the Winnipeg Art Gallery is because it is a place that tries to be welcoming and invitational to everyone and as a result I get to meet so many interesting and amazing people. I hope Siloam Mission will come back for another visit. If they do I’ll be the first guide in line to offer to lead the tour.
Note: The photos in the post were taken by Al Foster and are used here with his kind permission.
What’s a Portscape?
The Dakota Boat
I visited a Maori meeting house in New Zealand and learned a traditional Maori form of greeting. Two people shake their right hands and at the same time place their left hand on the other person’s shoulder. The head is bent, eyes closed and their foreheads touch as their noses are pressed together twice. The two people are said to share the breath of life with one another.
Although we may not greet people in the traditional Maori style, perhaps the way we speak or act towards others when we meet them can breathe life into their existence. Research shows one effective way for high school teachers to make a difference in the lives of their students is to simply greet them by name whenever they meet them in the school hallways or classrooms. It lets students know someone recognizes them and appreciates their presence in the school community. Could this be exactly the ‘breath of life’ some teenagers need?
I used to take daily early morning walks with my mother. I noticed how she made a point of saying a friendly hello or ‘good morning’ to each person we met. I sometimes wondered if perhaps my mother’s cheerful greeting was the one warm kind word some lonely people received that day.
Maori Meeting House in New Zealand
The Maori exchange the breath of life when they greet others. We too have the opportunity to ‘breathe life’ into someone’s day when we greet them in a warm and friendly way.
A Maori Jesus
The Winnipeg Art Gallery is awash with flowers this weekend. A special event called Art in Bloom has paired floral designers and their creations with works of art. I attended yesterday and there was almost too much beauty to take in so I decided to focus on artwork featuring women. What kind of floral art had been created to accompany their portraits?
Scottish artist Henry Raeburn’s Portrait of a Woman is a painting I often stop at when I am giving art gallery tours and together with my visitors we try to figure out everything we can about the lovely woman pictured. Who is she? What kind of family does she come from? What is she thinking and feeling? Why did she have her portrait painted?
Floral designer Heather Page created this arrangement as a tribute to Henry Raeburn’s lovely lady. She decided a traditional bouquet would best compliment the classic style of the portrait.
This 1630 painting of St. Cecilia the patron saint of music by Giuseppe Puglia shows a cherub interrupting St. Cecilia’s violin playing and pointing out something in a sheaf of music. Did the beloved saint who inspired so many composers miss a note or play a certain passage with exquisite beauty? Exquisite beauty probably best describes the arrangement of delicate pink roses Saint Cecilia inspired floral designer Mari Loewen to create.
The Farmer’s Daughter is by Prudence Heward a Canadian artist who sometimes exhibited with The Group of Seven. Floral designer Michele Pitre tried to imagine what the girl in the portrait was looking at and decided she might be staring off into a cool forest. So Michele created this natural arrangement complete with birch bark and woodland flowers and grasses.
Daphne Odjig’s Friends Rejoicing is a recent gallery acquisition and I love its vibrant, joyful colors. The happy women in the painting are celebrating the birth of a child. Floral interpreters Paul Jordan and Jordan Maegher are both in management positions at The Forks in Winnipeg. The Forks is a place of friendship, connection and the bright diversity of the prairies. They felt Daphne Odjig’s painting reflected those values as well.
I was delighted to discover this floral arrangement by Bernice Klassen. Bernice and I attended the same church for many years and our sons were the same age. Bernice was drawn to the orange hues in Ivan Eyre’s Women and Interior because orange is the color of courage. Elements in Bernice’s bold arrangement also echo the vase of flowers in the painting. One of my favorite combinations was this arrangement by floral designer Dorothy Vannan created for English artist Dorothea Sharp’s impressionist work In the Orchard that features a woman picking fruit.
The weather is going to be cold and wintry this weekend but you can escape at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. There’s coffee in the lobby to warm your body and in the galleries you will find lots of lovely flowers and beautiful art to warm your soul.
Flowers of Costa Rica
Flowers of Jamaica
Trilliums- Food For the Soul
Fanny is an English major working in a pub in order to pay her staggering college debt. One night a famous author comes into the bar and a star struck Fanny begins a relationship with him. He’s an alcoholic desperately in need of a story for his next novel. Fanny gives him hers. Her sprawling family history marked by infidelities, danger, step sibling craziness, revenge, passion and death becomes the core of a best seller and a subsequent movie. But how will Fanny’s family react when they discover she has literally given away their family’s story? What will they think?
I just finished reading Ann Patchett’s Commonwealth and it left me wondering who actually owns family stories. Many writers use their own family history to create the characters and events in their novels or to pen memoirs . Do they have the right to use stories from their family?
It’s a question being asked more frequently now that so many people share their family stories online. I share family stories. Some people in my family have asked me not to write about them or have let me know in various ways they don’t appreciate it when I write about them. Some people in my family love it when I write about them. Others have questioned my version of events.
Somehow I feel it is okay to write stories about family members who are no longer living. But what if other people in the family don’t agree with what I’ve said about the person who has died. What if they would rather I had remained silent? What if they feel I don’t have the right to tell a story about someone from our family’s shared past?
Commonwealth is an excellent novel and the story it spins intrigues and terrifies and makes you reflect on your own family narrative. Who has the rights to that narrative and who gets to decide how it should or shouldn’t be shared publicly?
A link to family stories I’ve shared in this blog.
Filed under Books, Family
I hadn’t seen this plaque about my Mom till I spoke at Grace Mennonite Church in Steinbach one Sunday morning. After the service I did a little tour of the church I called home for some thirty years. I found this photo and story posted in the church’s nursery room where families can go during the service or other church events so little children can play with the toys, have a nap or socialize with other toddlers. The nursery is a great place to pay tribute to my mother who was very involved for many years with the Cradle Roll program at Grace Mennonite.
The Cradle Roll was run by a group of older women from the church who visited young parents after their babies were born to express interest and support. They continued to make visits till the children were of school age. They planned and hosted parties a number of times each year so young parents and their children could socialize with one another. After Mom died our family made a donation to the women’s group at Grace Mennonite that Mom had belonged to for many decades. They decided to use the money to make improvements to the nursery as a way to recognize Mom’s love and care for the smallest members of the church family.
It is a fitting way to recognize Mom’s love of children.
My Mom Starts School
You Never Say Goodbye
On Saturday I saw a play about a father who must consider what will happen to his disabled son when he can no longer care for him. I was uncomfortable, troubled and sad watching Kill Me Now at Winnipeg’s Tom Hendry Warehouse Theatre. I was uncomfortable with the scene where the father helps his son masturbate. I was troubled by the father’s lack of concern about his teenager smoking marijuana, the aunt who regularly mixed drinking and driving and the separation of sex from love and/or commitment in a number of the relationships. I was saddened by the multiple tragedies that had been visited upon the family in the play and moved to tears at the end when a character chooses to end their own life.
Kill Me Now has been criticized for making the life of a family dealing with a disabled child seem way too troubling and terrible. Dea Birkett, the father of a disabled daughter writes a scathing review of the play in The Guardian. He list many stereotypes people have about families living with a disabled child and says Kill Me Now reinforces most of them. In response playwright Brad Fraser insists you can’t write a drama without conflict. He had to include lots of problems in order to have an engaging play. I’m thinking the truth of the matter lies somewhere in between the realities Birkett and Fraser posit.
Kill Me Now had me wondering how society could provide better support to families trying to meet the needs of their children who live with physical and mental challenges. It made me think about what kind of legislation and assistance might ease the pain of people who are considering difficult end of life decisions. The play forced me to reflect on what I would do if faced with the same dilemmas and tragedies as its’ characters.
Kill Me Now made me uncomfortable, troubled and sad but I’m really glad I saw it.
The Costumes Were Worth the Price of Admission
Getting to Know Richard II
The red Chinese character is for love. It is superimposed on the green character for spring. I’ve walked by this painting on a Portage Avenue wall a hundred times but finally decided last week to stop to photograph it. The work is titled Spring Over Love Under and is by Louis C. Bako a Winnipeg artist who was born in Hungary.
The painting brings to mind a line from Le Miserables by Victor Hugo.
If people did not love one another, I really don’t see what use there would be in having any spring.
It Must Be Spring
Inspiration to Speed the Coming of Spring