Monthly Archives: November 2017

Are You Confused Yet?

the vessel david altmejd“The whole point of art is to perplex and confound.”  Andrew Kear the chief curator at the Winnipeg Art Gallery is describing David Altmejd’s ideas about art.  Altmejd’s huge detailed work The Vessel is currently on display at the Winnipeg Art Gallery and it certainly does perplex and confound.  There is no easy explanation for what it is all about.  Yes the piece does appear to be a kind of vessel as its name suggests, a vessel filled with a multitude of the most interesting things.  We see parts of bodies…

hands moulding the vessel david altmejdHands moulding and shaping things

ears the vessel david altmejdEars

noses david altmejdNoses

bees david altmejdThere are containers filled with insects and…………………

swan the vessel david altmejdGiant shapes that look like swans or musical instruments and ………………

spools of thread david altmejdyou see spools of thread tongue depressers david altmejd the vesseland large wooden pieces kind of like wings of some sortthe vessel by david altmejdAndrew Kear  says David Altmejd likes to see what the unintended will bring to art. He likes to discover what accidents will happen as he constructs an art piece.  That makes for the creation of art that definitely makes you think and ask questions and use your imagination.  I can hardly wait to show The Vessel to kids.  I know they will find all kinds of things in this artwork I haven’t discovered yet. 

Other posts………..

The Beginning and End of Life

Art in Bloom

Are You Sure They Aren’t Photographs


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Filed under Art, winnipeg art gallery

Thinking of Folks in Bali

As the news fills with stories about a volcano threatening to erupt in Bali I am reminded of the two trips we made to Bali and in particular of the warm and wonderful people we met while we were there. school in baliThe children in the school we visited.

sunlini in baliMy friendly and professional golf caddy Sunlini.cocoa plantation baliThe workers at the farm where we learned all about cocoa production. getting ready for a wedding in baliThe family preparing for a wedding who invited us into their compound to watch all the festivities and meet the bride. boys swimming in baliThese joyful kids cooling off in a stream. harvest time in BaliThe farmers busy at work in their fields. winnowing rice in baliCooks getting rice ready to feed their families. beach vendor baliThis hardworking woman giving massages and pedicures on the beach. wayan eat pray loveWayan one of the characters in the book Eat, Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert.  Wayan served us a healthy lunch at her restaurant. 

I am especially concerned because many of these people in Bali rely on the tourist trade for their living and the possible volcanic eruption will deeply impact their sources of income as tourists flee.  I hope these folks will be safe and wish them all the best as they deal with the potential natural disaster. 

Other posts………

Biking in Bali

Meeting Wayan From Eat Pray Love

The $2000 Jeopardy Question

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I’ll Miss Her

I was sad to read in the Winnipeg Free Press this morning that The Metro newspaper will no longer be published. Truth be told I seldom read the paper but there was this incredibly friendly woman who stood at the bottom of the escalators in Winnipeg Square each morning handing out copies of the paper. She had a cheery good morning or an upbeat “Have a nice day” for every single person that walked by, whether you took a newspaper from her or not. I have passed her a hundred times on my way to work,or coming home from the gym or hurrying to an appointment and her warm greeting always brightened my day.  For the people who live and work downtown and who trek through the underground concourse in Winnipeg Square each morning she will no doubt be more sorely missed than the newspaper. Maybe the rest of us should follow her example and take the time to wish at least one or two of our fellow citizens a cheerful good morning as we make our way through Winnipeg Square. It would be a great way to carry on her tradition.
Other posts………

She’s Gone



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I Just Won A Cache of Great Children’s Books

I had the winning bid!  I am a member of the Manitoba Writers Guild and we’ve been having an online auction to raise funds for our organization.  I bid on a selection of children’s books from Portage and Main Press here in Winnipeg and ended up posting the winning bid.  It’s a big win for our church library too because that’s where I’m going to place the books.  We have been trying to add more books that reflect an indigenous perspective to our library, and while we have quite a good collection of adult books I hadn’t added any indigenous books to the children’s section. Now I can.

My prize package included……………….

When We Were Alone written by David Alexander Robinson and illustrated by Julie Flett.  The book is this year’s winner of the Governer General’s Literary Award. A grandmother tells her granddaughter about her experience in residential school in a way that connects with young children at just the right level largely because it is told in the context of the love that is clearly shared between the grandmother and granddaughter in the story.

Nimoshom and His Bus written by Penny Thomas and illustrated by Karen Hibbard was just launched on Thursday night at McNallly Robinson. Nimoshom is a school bus driver who introduces the kids on his route to new words in Cree.

Where Did You Get Your Moccasins written by Brenda Wheeler and illustrated by Herman Bekkering.  A young boy does a ‘show and tell’ talk at school about the moccasins his grandmother made for him. 

I Can’t Have Bannock But the Beaver Has a Dam is also by Brenda Wheeler and Herman Bekkering.    A boy listens patiently as his mother explains why she can’t make bannock- all as a result of the beaver’s need to build a dam. Powwow Counting in Cree by Penny Thomas and Melinda Josie is a unique book for young children that teaches counting from one to ten in the Cree language while enriching children’s knowledge of the Cree culture.  

I am grateful to Portage and Main Press for their donation of books to the auction.  I am grateful to the Manitoba Writers Guild for staging the auction. And I am grateful to the writers and illustrators who are creating such beautiful books to help Canadian children learn about an important part of their country’s heritage. 

Other posts……….

Books That Are Perfect For Preschoolers

Classic Children’s Christmas Books

Picture Books Have Changed


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Time To Get Out of Our Holy Huddles

One of the pastors at my church offered a very simple solution to creating a more peaceful world in a recent sermon.  He said it is time for people to step outside their comfort zones, to scatter out into places that may at least initially feel unfamiliar and uncomfortable and start getting to know people who are different than they are. It is time for us to get out of our holy huddles and make new connections that break down the polarizing stereotypes of ‘us and them’ or ‘friends and enemies’ .  It is easier to hate or judge or stereotype people we have never met or haven’t taken the time to get to know.  He encouraged us to scatter out into the world and get to know people and places that take us away from the familiar. Our pastor noted a direct correlation between the American states with the most hate groups and those with the highest percentage of people who do not hold passports. 


People writing the word welcome in different languages at the Human Rights Museum in Winnipeg

This doesn’t mean we have to travel abroad to get away from the familiar and break free of our complacent huddles.  There are plenty of opportunities right here in Manitoba to step out of our comfort zone and really get to know people who have a different religion than ours, who are in a different age category than we are, whose native language is different from ours, whose sexual orientation is different from ours, whose culture and ethnicity is different from ours, whose economic status is very different from ours, or those who hold very different political views than we do.

Golden_Rule_by_Norman_Rockwell public domain

The Golden Rule by Norman Rockwell

I pray for peace in the world every night before I go to sleep but that petition often feels hollow.  I can’t just pray.  I have to do something!  My pastor’s words about breaking free of the comfortable circles of interaction we all naturally tend to migrate towards and pushing ourselves out into the wider world to see and experience and really get to know people who are very different than we are was inspiring. That’s something I CAN do. 

Other posts………….

Interfaith Dialogue- A Path to Peace

Dipping My Toe Into the Human Rights Museum

Canada Day At the Forks



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Why Do We Share Our Worst Selves With Those We Love The Most?

Why do we save our worst behavior for the people we love the most?  I thought about that after I saw the movie Lady Bird.  It’s the story of a girl named Christine who prefers people call her Lady Bird. She is in her senior year of high school.  Lady Bird and her mother love each other but they disagree about almost everything. In an early scene in the movie the mom and daughter fight because the mother won’t let her daughter cook breakfast for herself even though she is perfectly capable of doing so.   There is a contentious scene where their tastes clash over the selection of Lady Bird’s prom dress. Near the end of the movie the mother is angry her daughter wants to go to New York to school so she can’t bring herself to wish her daughter well or even go into the airport to say good-bye as she heads off to college.  The two women just can’t seem to get along.  

But there are moments when their underlying love for one another shines through.  When Lady Bird has a disappointing  first sexual encounter her mother is there to comfort her and they spend a Sunday afternoon touring real estate Open Houses having a great time together imagining they might live in the homes they are viewing.

Save for a few of these sporadic episodes of affection the two woman are diffident and contrary with one another throughout the movie bringing out their worst character traits whenever they are interacting. 

I am sure many audience members could identify as they considered some of their own relationships.  Perhaps there is friction in their marriage relationship despite an underlying love.  Perhaps there is tension in a sibling relationship despite a sense of belonging together.  Perhaps there is conflict in a friendship despite an assumed loyalty.

The mother in the movie is a psychiatric nurse and is so gentle and understanding and non-judgmental with her patients.  Most of the time however she just can’t exhibit that same gentleness and understanding and open-mindedness with her own daughter. 

Why do we so often save our worst behavior for the people we love the most? 

Other posts………

He Watches, He Listens, He Thinks, He writes. 

I Live in a Movie Set

Botswana Moves Up the Bucket List


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Why Did You Say That?

At the beginning of each tour we give at the Winnipeg Art Gallery we provide this welcome.

” We acknowledge the Winnipeg Art Gallery in located on Treaty One land, the traditional territory of the Anishinaabe, Cree, Dene, Dakota and Oji-Cree Nations and the homeland of the Métis.”  

Treaty One by artist Robert Houle

At the beginning of November I gave a drop- in guided tour to about twenty five gallery visitors and after the tour was over one woman stayed back to ask me a question.  She was from a small rural community some distance from Winnipeg.  “I was just wondering,”  she said, “why you made the statement you did at the beginning of the tour.”

The Delegate- Portage and Main by indigenous artist Jeffrey M. Thomas

 I said that kind of acknowledgement was now common place at many Winnipeg venues.  I told her I’d heard similar statements before concerts at the Centennial Concert Hall, at Winnipeg Jets games at the MTS Centre, at plays at the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre, before morning announcements at public schools I visit and that in my church such an acknowledgment was either announced or printed in our church bulletin each week. She seemed surprised to hear this. 

Treaty Map of Canada

I told the woman indigenous people had lived on the land where the art gallery stands for thousands of years, long before settlers from other parts of the world came to Canada.  I explained the importance of respecting that and recognizing that although treaties regarding land use were negotiated with indigenous groups their understanding and the settlers’ understanding of those treaties was very different. I said acknowledging the original inhabitants of the land was a way to work towards a more respectful relationship with indigenous Canadians and to actively pursue a path of reconciliation.  

Treaty medal on display at the Glenbow Museum

The woman thanked me for my explanation.  She said she had learned something new.  I had too because I’d really had to think about how I could best answer her question.  And maybe that’s exactly why we acknowledge our presence on Treaty One land before every tour at the Winnipeg Art Gallery………… because it makes us all take a moment and think about something really important. 

Other posts……..

Gone But Not Forgotten

Ojibwa in Paris

Build Your Own

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Filed under Art, Canada, History, winnipeg art gallery

Sorry but I Like Facebook

“Facebook is evil.”  I was having lunch with a colleague not long ago and was somewhat shocked when she made that judgemental statement. 

I know are many good reasons NOT to spend time on Facebook but……………. I like spending time on Facebook for many  good reasons too.  

Last week I spent an evening helping my seventy-nine year old aunt upload photos to her Facebook page.  She was excited to share images from the three trips she made this past year with her friends and family.  I had a nice evening visiting with her and she made me a great supper.  Thank you Facebook.

me and hannahLast week my niece Hannah who lives in Ontario sent me a message via Facebook. She was desperate for some new books to read.  Did I have any recommendations?  I sent Hannah a list of books I had enjoyed in the last year or so and she told me she was going to start at the top of the list and read her way down.  I look forward to talking to her about the books she’s reading and compare notes.  Thank you Facebook. 

lake winnipeg al loeppky

Lake Winnipeg-photo by Al Loeppky

My cousin Al has a house on Lake Winnipeg and he is always posting these absolutely gorgeous photos of the lake and surrounding area on Facebook.  They make me appreciate the created world.  Thank you Facebook. 

The head of my school programs department at the Winnipeg Art Gallery has started a Facebook page where all the  guides share ideas and information about our tours with each other.  It is very helpful!  Thank you Facebook. 

My cousin Dirk and his partner just moved back to Taiwan and his Facebook posts are keeping me up to date on his life there.  I miss my cousins and it is nice to see glimpses of their life in Asia. 

me and aunt vi- summer 2011My aunt Vi is celebrating her 95th birthday at the beginning of December.  I am flying to Saskatoon to host a party for her.  I used Facebook messenger to announce the party to all my cousins and invite them to attend. Thank you Facebook. 

hong kong student farewell

At a farewell lunch some of our students hosted for us before we left Hong Kong.

We lived and worked in Hong Kong for six years and via Facebook I am able to keep up with the activities, careers and families of my Hong Kong highschool students and colleagues.  I learn about marriages, births and new jobs.  Then when we travel to places where our former colleagues and students live and get together with them I have lots of topics for conversation because I have been following their lives on Facebook.  Thank you Facebook. 

This week I used Facebook to give my niece Stephanie some help with buying a Christmas gift for her daughter.  

I used Facebook to publicize a book club I am leading at the art gallery.  

I used Facebook to bid on some items being auctioned as a fundraiser for the Manitoba Writers Guild 

I used Facebook to provide links to the blog posts I wrote.  

I used Facebook to brag a little about an award won by my son’s music group.  

Thank you Facebook. 

I know there is talk that Facebook was partially responsible for electing Donald Trump President of the United States and I may never forgive them for that, but I do like Facebook.  I can’t help it. 

Other posts………..

To Unfriend or Not? 


Technology and Family Time

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Inside a Language Womb

“The room is dark and in the middle are three walls in a triangle, painted black and covered in foam. Stepping in and standing in the centre of the triangle you’re immediately surrounded by a loud rhythmic sound, like a heartbeat or the rush of blood through veins. Then the voice of a woman speaks Anishinaabemowin an Ojibway language. It’s both beautiful and overwhelming.”

That’s the way CBC personality Rosana Deerchild who hosts the popular radio show Unreserved describes a piece of sound art in the Insurgence/Resurgence exhibit at the Winnipeg Art Gallery.  She calls Scott Benesiinaabandan’s work a language womb

I like to use that description too when I lead gallery visitors into the dark interior of the exhibit.  I invite them to imagine they are in a womb listening to a mother’s heart beating, her blood rushing and her soothing voice almost like a lullaby telling her baby the story of her family and her people.  Kids especially like being inside Scott Benesiinaabandan’s untitled art installation.  It is just a little bit scary at first because it is dark and so they are excited.  Then their eyes adjust to the darkness.  They start listening to the woman’s soothing voice and are lulled by the rhythmic ‘heart beats’ in the background. Invariably they grow comfortable, quiet and calm and don’t want to leave the exhibit.   

Scott Benesiinaabandan is a University of Winnipeg graduate and an emerging Anishinabe artist based in Montreal. His piece in the current Insurgence/Resurgence exhibit at the Winnipeg Art Gallery is one of my favorites. 

Other posts…………


Zip Ties and The Three Little Pigs

This Looks Familiar

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Don’t Be Scared to be Creative

To live a creative life we must lose our fear of being wrong. – Joseph Chilton Pearce

That’s something I need to keep telling myself. It’s something we need to keep telling each other. It is especially something we need to keep telling our children.  So often we hamper creativity or put a stop to it all together because we expect too much of ourselves and too much of others.  We need to remember……….You don’t have to be a professional photographer to love taking  pictures.You don’t have to be an art critic or art history student to enjoy art and learn as much as you can about it.

You don’t have to be a trained musician to have a good time singing or playing an instrument.   

You don’t have to be an art school graduate to have lots of fun creating artwork. 

You don’t need extensive theatre experience to act in a play and have a great time with your fellow actors and audience. You needn’t have attended journalism school to write a book or a story or a blog post that others can enjoy reading. 

You don’t have to be a top chef to make some really creative dishes.

In her book Big Magic Elisabeth Gilbert lists twenty five fears people have about being more creative.  Everything from a fear of being ridiculed, undisciplined, untrained, or embarrassed.  And I would add…….. a fear of being wrong. 

It’s a hard fear to overcome and I struggle with it mightily.  But we need to get over it!

Other posts……….

When Did You Stop Drawing? 

Dave Driedger Nature Photographer

Siloam Mission At the Winnipeg Art Gallery


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