Monthly Archives: June 2018

A Tale of Two Portraits

They dominate the room!   “Who are those people?”  That’s what visitors on my tours said immediately upon entering the third gallery of the French Moderns show at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. They were drawn to a pair of huge portraits, one of a man and one of a woman facing each other on the gallery’s walls.  

kees van dongen william davenportThe man is William S. Davenport. He was an American dental surgeon living and working in France in 1925 when his portrait was painted.  The tiny red mark on his suit lapel represents the French Legion of Honor he was awarded for his work in the American Ambulance Core during World War I as the assistant chief of the facial and jaw reconstructive surgery division. He served as a dentist to the Belgian royal family and was one of the first dentists to have his testimony in court accepted for using dental records to identify human remains. According to his obituary Mr. Davenport was also an artist himself and good friends with the American painter James Whistler. 

The artist who painted Mr. Davenport was Kees Van Dongen. He was born in Rotterdam where he worked in the family brewery, studying art in the evenings.  He moved to Paris in 1897 and remained there for most of his life. He was part of the Fauve art movement whose artists were known for the use of bright color hence the bright red and blue markings on Mr. Davenport’s face. Kees Van Dongen was really more famous for painting portraits of women than men and when he was in his eighties painted an iconic one of French actress Brigitte Bardot. bondini florence blumenthal

The woman is Florence Meyer Blumenthal.  Florence was also an American living in Paris.  She and her husband had one home in Paris, and another in the South of France but still maintained a home in New York as well.  Florence Blumenthal was also awarded the French Legion of Honor in her case for donating money to a Paris Children’s Hospital and establishing the Prix Blumenthal a grant awarded each year to a young French artist to aid them financially and to draw the United States and France closer together through the arts. Florence was a sister to the publisher of the Washington Post Eugene Meyer and an aunt to his daughter Kay Graham(think the movie The Post) who eventually became the paper’s publisher. Florence and her husband George donated millions of dollars to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York as well as to New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital in memory of their son George Jr.  who died as a young boy.  

The portrait of Florence Blumenthal was painted by Giovanni Boldini an Italian artist who moved to Paris in 1872 and was good friends with impressionist painter Edgar Degas. Interestingly like Mr. Davenport, the dentist, Boldini was also good friends with the  American artist James Whistler and Boldini’ s portrait of Whistler is a part of the Brooklyn Museum collection as are the portraits of Davenport and Blumenthal. In almost all his portraits of women Boldini has them pose in evening gowns.  According to an article in The Daily Art Magazine Boldini used swirling loose brushstrokes to have those gowns take on a life of their own.  His nickname was The Master of Swish

If you haven’t already been to see the French Moderns exhibit at the Winnipeg Art Gallery you need to come.  These portraits are only two of the many intriguing artworks on display. 

Other posts…..

Who is She? 


Inuit Art Isn’t Just Soapstone Carvings

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Filed under Art, winnipeg art gallery

Where I’m From – Moose Lake

Moose Lake- 1960-

moose lake cottage earliestI am from skinny- dipping in the dark, gin rummy games in the glow of the kerosene lamp and six cousins up on skis behind the boat

I am from horse flies and fire flies and dragon flies and mosquitoes and the wooden table with the secret drawer

I am from the time a mouse frightened Auntie Margaret in the outdoor biffy and she ran out screaming- her bum as bare as could be

dad and kaaren at cottageI am from swimming through seaweed, the lake itch, a salt- shaker for the eels, washing and drying dishes, building forts, planting pines, swamping the Pepper and catching frogs

moose lake manitobaI’m from charades, jig saw puzzles, Monopoly, the sand pile, the tire swing and my nose in a pile of Readers Digest condensed books and old National Geographics

I’m from collecting shells and driftwood at Lake of the Woods, walking to the store for ice-cream and the stranded buck we guided to shore by the antlers

moose lake cottageI am from Segne Vater, Komm Herr Jesu, Johnny Appleseed and God is Great before meals, church at the camp on Sunday morning, and the neighbor coming to ask Dad to get the fishhook out of his hand

I’m from coffee and cake at Auntie Selma’s– “walk backwards and sing if you see a bear”- from “swords into ploughshares”- “be happy”- “wear a life jacket” -­ “let’s go to the north end”– and “it will be better by the time you’re a grandma”

sunset on moose lakeI am from hot nights and canoeing down the path of the full moon, chocolate chip cookies, Dad making eggs to order with bacon, and roasted marshmallows 

I am from Grandpa dog paddling and telling us stories of his life as a prisoner and baker in the Russian army- trying to tip the boat in a bout of rebellion, loons calling, gartner snakes writhing, fish jumping and spotting the bald eagle’s nest

moose lake cottage Hanging on the wall was the cabin journal adorned with birch bark and berries- stories from a family haven- the one constant place in my life.

Other posts……..

Lord You Have Come To the Lakeshore

Wild Flower Inspiration- Moose Lake

My Nephew!  My Hero!



Filed under Family, Nature

Should Canadians Still Travel to the United States?

Quite a number of Canadian people I know say they will not be traveling to the United States any longer.   Although in my view Donald Trump has done one morally repugnant thing after another, both before and after taking office, many feel America has crossed the final line of decency and democracy and honesty with the separation of immigrant children from their parents, the upholding of the Muslim travel ban by the Supreme Court and the president declaring that products from their closest neighbour and ally, Canada, pose a national security risk to the United States.

We have a trip to the United States planned for the fall and I am torn about whether we should go through with it.  Here is stuff I am mulling over in that regard.

We have traveled in mainland China repeatedly and their human rights record is dismal.

Is it even safe to go to the United States? The lack of sensible gun control laws means there is a mass shooting five out of every six days. 

55% of the American people do not support Donald Trump and many of the actions he has taken.  Would traveling to their country or not traveling to their country be the best way to show my support for them ?

Am I being self-righteous?  My own country’s government was hit with its fourth non-compliance order by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal this year for not providing equal services to the indigenous children of Canada. 

We will be going to Utah where my husband will be participating in a sporting tournament. Could the event provide an opening to talk to Americans in Utah and dialogue with them? Utah’s electoral votes went to Mr. Trump. Might I have the opportunity to share some of my faith and humanitarian concerns in a polite and civil way and  try to understand how their world view can differ so much from mine? 

One of the things we want to see are Utah’s stunning national parks.  President Trump is shrinking them so they can be opened up for oil, gas and coal mining potential.  If we don’t go and see them now we may not get another chance. 

Although travel to the United States from every other area of the world has declined since President Trump was elected travel from Canada has actually risen.  Should I be contributing to this trend? What kind of message does that send? 

Have you changed your American travel plans?  Do you think Canadians should? 

Other posts……..

Encouragement After the American Election

Sunset Walk in America the Beautiful

I’m So Tired of You America



Filed under Travel

The Water Beetles

the water beetlesI could not put this book down.  I read it in one fell swoop neglecting everything else I was supposed to be doing. Now I am trying to figure out why I was so engrossed. Maybe it was because…………hong kong landscape

  1. Some of the story takes place in Hong Kong and so the places were familiar to me because I lived there and worked there for six years. The story felt so real because images of  streets I’d walked and areas of the city I’d frequented came to mind as I read. 
  2. The story is about the brutal Japanese occupation of Hong Kong during World War II.  An assignment I gave my high school journalism students in Hong Kong was to interview one of their grandparents about an incident from their past. I vividly remember the stories students wrote about their grandparents’ experiences during the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong. 

    biking with guide in yangshou china

    Rong our wonderful biking guide in Yangshou, China

  3. Some of the story in The Water Beetles takes place in the Chinese countryside. I traveled through many rural areas of China.  I rode bicycle for days through rice fields, across ancient bridges and into tiny villages like the ones described in the book. I felt like I was back there as I read The Water Beetles. michael-kaan
  4. I was fascinated because the writer of the book Michael Kaan is from Winnipeg and has never written a novel before. He holds degrees in social work and business administration from the University of Manitoba and runs a clinic for veterans suffering from PTSD.  But he had always wanted to write a book and so he did. He was inspired by letters his Hong Kong born father had written detailing his experiences during World War II.  Lo and behold Michael’s book won the prestigious and lucrative Amazon 2018 prize for best first novel. This is the kind of dream come true fairy tale that all unpublished and novice novel writers like me want to believe can happen to them. 
  5. The story is well written and suspenseful.  There were many times I didn’t want to turn the page because I was too scared to find out what was going to happen to the characters next.  
  6. At a time when the world’s attention is being focused on the trauma faced by young children separated from their parents this book makes that trauma all too real because The Water Beetles main character Chung-Man and his brother Leuk and their little sister Wei-Ming must leave their mother in Hong Kong to go into hiding in the Chinese countryside. 
  7. This book won two awards at the recent Manitoba Book Awards and perhaps part of my engagement with the book was trying to find out if it deserved those awards.  It did. 

Other posts……….

Hong Kong Inspiration

Hong Kong Frogs That Sound Like Cows Bellowing

A New Book Set Right Here in Winnipeg

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Knowing the Future

“I wish we knew a little more about the future.”  I was chatting with another church member about my age during the coffee hour after the service yesterday.  She said if she and her husband knew how long they were going to live they could plan a little better for the future.  If they knew they would die at a relatively young age they would use their savings to travel more now. If on the other hand they knew they would live several more decades they might have to save their money to cover their living expenses in their last years. I got the feeling from our conversation they were leaning towards living more in the here and now, enjoying some traveling and not worrying excessively about how they’d survive in their nineties. 

My grandmother once told me when she was a young girl growing up in Ukraine gypsies camped outside her village. They would tell your fortune if you gave them a watermelon.  She was glad she had never taken them up on the offer.  Her life had many difficulties and challenges and she was glad she’d only had to face those when they appeared and hadn’t had to worry about them ahead of time. 

walden pond signIn the early 1990s our family visited Walden Pond where the famous writer Henry David Thoreau made his home. We each wrote our dreams for the future on the rocks there. Supposedly the rain would wash our dreams into the water of the lake and they would come true.  The wishes I wrote that day still haven’t materialized but I’m glad I don’t know what my future holds because that allows me to live in hope that someday my dreams will be fulfilled. 

writing wishes at walden pond

Our son writing his wishes on a rock at Walden Pond

I think a lot about the future.  Like my grandmother I am glad I don’t know what it holds. It allows me to live in the here and now and enjoy life like my friend in church has decided to do. Not knowing my future also allows me to hold out hope that the dreams I penned at Walden Pond so long ago can still come true.

Other posts……..

When The Coin Rings Luck Springs

Lucky Locks

Making Wishes in Sedona

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She Persisted

she persistedI’ve just added She Persisted Around the World to our church library.  The book written by Chelsea Clinton and illustrated by Alexandra Boiger tells the stories of thirteen women from around the world who persisted despite all kinds of barriers placed in their way.  marie curieSome of the women are familiar like Marie Curie twice awarded the Noble Prize for her discovery of two new scientific elements. She persisted despite the fact she had to leave her home country to study.  j.k. rowlingAnother familiar woman is English author J.K. Rowling who persisted in writing her award winning series of Harry Potter books despite being rejected by dozens of publishers.  caroline hershelOther women featured in the book are not so familiar like Caroline Hershel an astronomer who discovered two planets.  She persisted in studying astronomy even though her parents thought she should try to get a job as a servant.  Sissi lima do amorAnother woman I hadn’t heard about before was Sissi Luna do Amor one of the first women to play soccer professionally in Brazil.  She persisted even though she got in trouble for wanting to play because she was a girl.  viola desmondThere is even a section in the book about Canada’s own Viola Desmond who persisted in retaining her seat in the “white” section of a movie theater even though she was black. 

Elizabeth_Warren_2016“She Persisted”  is the famous phrase directed at American Senator Elizabeth Warren when she insisted on reading a letter from Coretta Scott King to the Senate as a way to defend her objection to the appointment of Jeff Sessions as Attorney General.  Sessions had an abysmal record on civil rights which had previously prevented him from being appointed as a federal court judge.  The Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell called for a vote to silence Senator Warren. He said he had no choice because she wouldn’t listen to him. “She persisted” he said and kept reading the letter. The phrase “she persisted” has quickly come to refer to women’s persistence in breaking barriers despite being silenced or ignored. 

kate sheppard

Kate Sheppard who persisted in getting the vote for women in New Zealand.

There are so many interesting women profiled in She Persisted Around the World and they come from every continent and every area of endeavor.  I think the book will be an inspiration for everyone who reads it and not just children, but adult as well.

Other posts……….. 


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Filed under Books, Childhood, History

What’s A Twitter Pitch Party?

On Thursday I was part of my first Twitter Pitch Party. A Twitter Pitch Party is a way for writers to try and get their work seen by potential publishers.  The pitch party on Thursday was for picture books.  Here’s the idea.

Writers of picture books create a 280 character pitch or summary of their story written in a way that they hope will intrigue book publishers, editors and writing agents.  They post it on Twitter.  Then publishers, editors and agents who are interested in your book based on your description can ‘like’ your pitch and if they do you can send them a query or submission asking them to consider your book for publication.  

I followed the Twitter Pitch feed during the day and literally hundreds of different pitches for picture books were being posted each hour.  What was the chance an editor, publisher or agent would even happen upon mine in an amongst the many thousands posted ?

I realized that just like the more traditional avenues I’ve already tried for getting a picture book published you have about a one in a million chance your twitter party pitch will lead to a book deal. So why do people participate when the odds are so stacked against them?  I guess many of the authors are in my position where they have submitted their picture books to dozens of publishing houses and contests and explored endless avenues for publication.  They may have received lots of positive feedback and accolades as I have, but no interest in a book deal. At that point you are willing to roll the dice and try a Twitter Pitch for getting your book published. 

The next step for many of the picture book authors as well as me may just be self-publication – a pricey and time consuming option because you need to hire an illustrator and book designer and pay all the publishing costs yourself.   But that option is becoming more and more common. 

It was good practice for me to have to pitch my book in one short phrase but I don’t think I will participate in a Twitter Pitch again.  Finding success there I think is kind of like planning your future around a winning lottery ticket. I need to pursue more concrete avenues for publication. Getting a picture book published is still on my bucket list and for now it’s staying there. 

Other posts………

The Cube

Learning From Judy Blume

The Artist’s Way

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Filed under Books, Writing

Sketching in the Park

sketching assiniboine parkOn Monday my friend Esther and I met in Assiniboine Park to sketch.  Esther had picked a spot with a great view of The Pavilion.  We spent an hour and half or so creating our own versions of the scene.  

esther's sketch

My friend Esther’s sketch.

Assiniboine Park has a special significance for my family.  My parents got engaged in the park close to seventy years ago. My Dad was in the middle of his proposal when a guard knocked on the window and told him the park was closing for the evening.  The Pavilion was also the site for my brother and his partner’s wedding over a decade ago.  

sketch assiniboine park

My rendition of the park pavilion.

Assiniboine Park was a great place to sketch.  Esther and I have decided we will try to sketch together once a month. I wonder where we will go next? 

Other posts……..

I’m Trying to Draw Cartoons

When Did You Stop Drawing?

Don’t Be Scared to be Creative

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Getting Involved at the Human Rights Museum


me and nelson mandelaOne of the things I really liked about the Nelson Mandela display at the Canadian Human Rights Museum in Winnipeg is the way it provides the visitor with a variety of experiences to draw you into the story of the fight to end apartheid in South Africa.

south africa park benchYou can sit on a park bench clearly labeled For Europeans Only and read information about what it was like for a black woman to work as a domestic servant or a black man to be a miner in Johannesburg. Photos show how they were given unsanitary cramped living quarters and made to wear an identification bracelet with a number assigned by their employer.

mandela cellYou can stand in a cell like the one where Nelson Mandela was incarcerated for twenty- seven years. As silhouettes of Nelson appear on the walls you almost feel like you are with him on Robben Island where he was imprisoned because of his activism and leadership in the anti-apartheid movement.

interview room mandela exhibitYou can sit on chairs in a secret hideout and watch Nelson Mandela do a television interview with a British journalist at 2:00 am in 1961. nelson mandela interviewMandela had gone underground after been convicted of treason for his peaceful protests against apartheid.

apartheid postersYou can make a poster.  A display features a whole variety of posters that helped to advance the ideals of the anti-apartheid movement. posterOn an interactive board you can choose from many different options to create a background, wording and illustrations and create an anti-apartheid poster of your very own. If you take a photo you could even print up your poster at home.

mailbox mandela exhibitYou can write a letter.  As you leave the display you watch young South Africans share their hopes and dreams for the future of their country.  After being inspired by what Nelson Mandela did to bring about change in his community you have the opportunity to write a letter saying what you will do to change your community for the better. Letter writing paper, felt markers and even colorful envelopes are available and once you have written your message you can either keep it or ‘mail’ it to the world in the mail slot provided.

letterThe Nelson Mandela exhibit is informative and thought-provoking and provides opportunity for hands on involvement.  Since experiencing the exhibit I’ve been thinking a lot about how the South African colonizers knew ending apartheid would also end their comfortable and successful way of life. Their story reminds us that people are always susceptible to following their basest instincts of self-survival and self- promotion even if that damages others and is not fair or ethical.  Sadly it is still a timely message in our present day.

Other posts……..

Images of Apartheid

An Inspiration

Not the Harlem I Expected



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Filed under History, Winnipeg

Who Is She?

marie laurencin woman in scarf“Who is she?”  While giving a tour of The French Moderns exhibit at the Winnipeg Art Gallery a woman stayed behind to ask me about a painting that intrigued her.  It was called Femme au Foulard or Woman With A Scarf. She thought the woman in the painting looked sort of mysterious and melancholy. The gallery visitor had never heard of Marie Laurencin the artist and I had to confess I hadn’t either.  I thanked the woman for her interest and promised I’d find out more about Marie Laurencin.  


Marie Laurencin in 1912

I’ve since learned that Marie was a French artist who lived from 1883-1956.  She was an illegitimate child raised in Paris by her aloof and authoritarian mother and a mostly absentee father who was married to another woman. Like the great impressionist painter Renoir who got his start painting porcelain, Marie did porcelain painting in Sevres France before returning to her Paris birthplace and studying oil painting.  


Group of Artists painted by Marie Laurencin in 1908 features Marie with artist Pablo Picasso to her left and writer Guillaume Apollinaire to her right. Picasso’s model and muse Fernande Olivier is leaning on her hand.

In Paris, Marie met the painters Pablo Picasso and Henri Rousseau and began a six-year relationship with Guillaume Apollinaire a poet, playwright and short story writer and a great fan of the cubist art movement. Their relationship ended in 1913. Marie married a German baron in 1914. She would later divorce her alcoholic husband and never married again. 

alice in wonderland illustration by marie laurencin

Alice in Wonderland illustration by Marie Laurencin

Marie was a painter, printmaker and stage designer.  She illustrated the 1930 edition of Alice in Wonderland.

Portrait of author Somerset Maugham by Marie Laurencin

In 1936 she painted a portrait of her friend the British playwright Somerset Maugham who had a home on the French Riveria. She usually charged men double what she charged women for portraits but her Maugham portrait was a gift to him.  

Le Bal élégant, La Danse à la campagne by Marie Laurencin- 1913

Marie often exhibited with Cubist artists but her paintings weren’t typical of that art movement. Her work has been described as soft, pastel and feminine a real contrast to the vivid, geometrical work of many Cubists. A friend once said….. “there is something of a fairy wand in the brush of Marie Laurencin.” 


Tete de Jeune Fille or Head of a Young Girl by Marie Laurencin 1909

Interestingly in 1983 a hundred years after she was born the Musee’ Marie Laurencin opened in Nagano, Japan to display more than 600 pieces of Marie Laurencin’s work collected by Masahiro Takano. The museum has since been relocated to Tokyo. 


Ile de France 1940 by Marie Laurencin

There are only a handful of women whose work is displayed in The French Moderns exhibit at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. I knew about three of them, Mary Cassatt, Berthe Morisot and Gabriele Münter, but thanks to my inquisitive tour participant on Saturday I will now be able to tell future visitors I guide about a fourth woman artist Marie Laurencin.

Note: An excellent article in the Women in World History Biographical Encyclopedia provided a great deal of information about Marie Laurencin. 


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Filed under Art, winnipeg art gallery