Monthly Archives: April 2019

Books and Brushes – Connecting Art and Literature

I am almost finished re-reading the Pulitzer Prize winning novel Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides.  On May 21st at 11:30 I will lead a Books and Brushes session at the Winnipeg Art Gallery where we will use Middlesex as our inspiration for looking at various pieces of art currently on view in the galleries.  This is the fourth Books and Brushes session I have been assigned. Sometimes finding connections between a book and paintings or sculptures in the galleries is pretty easy. Other times when I start reading a novel I wonder how I will connect it at all. I first read Middlesex several years ago and just loved the breathtaking prose.  Eugenides has this way of describing things and people and events that forces you to go back to read his words over and over and again because they paint such a wondrous picture. But on this second reading I couldn’t get too distracted by the beauty of the words because I had to focus on connections I could make between the book and the WAG art collection. 

The first connection was easy.  Middlesex tells the moving story of Calliope Helen Stephanides a hermaphrodite born in 1960 in Detroit into an incredibly colorful Greek family.   Calliope eventually becomes Cal a fascinating man who works for the American state department in Berlin.

Androgyny by Norval Morrisseau 1983

I knew the reason Middlesex had been chosen by McNally Robinson the Winnipeg Art Gallery’s partner in the Books and Brushes series was because we currently have Norval Morrisseau’s giant mural Androgyny on view in the main lobby of our building.  But what other works of art might connect with the book?

Clouds, Lake Superior- by Lawren Harris 1923

I read and wondered and read and wondered and then about a hundred pages in Voilà! I found a connection to the paintings of Lawren Harris one of Canada’s  famous Group of Seven.

Margaux Hemingway by Tony Scherman

A hundred pages later I made a huge asterisk in my notes by a section of the novel that related perfectly to some new work at the gallery by Canadian artist Tony Scherman.

This kept happening so even though I am not quite finished re-reading Middlesex I know there will be plenty for me to talk about with my fellow book and art lovers on May 21st.   

There is still lots of time for you to buy the book at McNally Robinson read it, and come and join me to discover the connections I’ve made between art and a beautifully written novel.  You might even make some connections of your own and I’d love to talk about them with you. You can find out all the details about the book club here.    Hope to see you there!

Other posts……….

Difficult Women

Bold and Beautiful

Two Diverse Member of the Group of Seven

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Filed under Art, Books, winnipeg art gallery

Stitched with Love

dorothy's quiltI brought this framed baby blanket along this weekend when I went to Saskatoon to meet my new granddaughter.  The blanket belongs to her now. jantz family 1894The blanket was made by Marie Gerbrandt Jantz my great-grandmother shown here around 1894 in Hillsboro Kansas with her husband Peter and their eight children. My granddaughter’s middle name is Marie so she shares a name with her great, great, great-grandmother. jantz family 2 (1)Marie and her family immigrated to Drake Saskatchewan in 1906 when this photo was taken.  My grandmother Annie is standing closest to her mother.  It wasn’t many years later that Marie’s husband Peter died. schmidt wedding 1My grandmother Annie married Peter Schmidt and in 1925 they had a daughter Dorothy Marie who was my mother. mom as babe0001The night my mother was born  her grandmother Marie came to stay at her daughter Annie’s home.  She brought along a beautiful blanket she had stitched for the new baby. My mother was given the second name Marie after her grandmother. grandma marie jantzMarie spent the rest of her life living with her daughter Annie. She died when my mother, her granddaughter was sixteen. Because she lived with my mother’s family for so many years Marie played an important role in my mother’s life. 

1952 weddingMy mother grew up, became a teacher and married Paul Peters. mom dad meI was born in 1953 and my grandmother Annie passed on the baby blanket her mother Marie had made for my mother Dorothy Marie so my mother could use it for 1973I grew up, became a teacher and married David Driedger. baby blanketIn 1979 when my son was born my mother had the blanket framed and gave it to me at a family baby shower.  I hung the framed blanket in our nursery. I have kept it all these years wondering what I should do with it, but when my son and his wife decided to give their daughter the second name Marie, I knew that the blanket should go to her because it was my granddaughter’s great, great, great grandmother Marie who had made the blanket for her own granddaughter Dorothy Marie. 

I probably won’t be around to know what happens to the blanket in subsequent generations.  My hope is that even if the blanket itself doesn’t get passed on the love and sense of shared history it represents will be a reality for many generations of our family to come. 

Other posts………..

A Writing Inheritance From Two Grandparents

They Left Us Everything

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The Religion of Trees

Tree Movement by Emily Carr. Photographed at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. 

In an April 22 article in the religion section of the Washington Post writer Matthew Sleeth reminds us that Friday was Arbor Day, an American holiday where people are encouraged to appreciate trees and plant trees.  Here in Canada different provinces recognize Arbor Day in a variety of ways.  The folks in Ontario sponsor an entire Arbor Week which began on Friday.  Here in Winnipeg there will be an Arbor Day celebration on June 1 in St. Vital Park.  You can learn more about that here.  

Trees by Dorothy Knowles. Photographed at the Remai Modern in Saskatoon. 

No matter when Arbor Day is celebrated the point of Sleeth’s Washington Post piece is that all people of faith, but in particular Christians, should be busy planting and protecting trees world-wide. He says trees are mentioned in the Bible more often than any other living thing.  

Olive Trees by Vincent Van Gogh. Photographed at the Minneapolis Institute of Art.

Revelation 22:2 suggests that the leaves of trees might bring healing to the nations of the world. Could caring for trees and our environment be a cause that unites the world?

A glass mosaic called Ash Trees in the Late Afternoon by my cousin Sharon Loeppky. Photographed at the Mennonite Heritage Centre Gallery in Winnipeg. 

In Genesis 21:33 Abraham plants a tree as a symbol for the signing of a peace treaty. Could reforestation projects be a way for countries to come together in peace to replenish the earth’s tree population?

Tree Children by Winnipeg artist Leo Mol. Photographed just outside the Richardson Building in downtown Winnipeg.

What a different world we might have if everyone acted like “oaks of righteousness” the way  good people are described in Isaiah 61:3.  Jesus said in the beatitudes that righteous people are gentle peacemakers. 

Root Dress by Barb Hunt. Photographed at the Winnipeg Art Gallery.

In the comments on Sleeth’s article in the Washington Post people are very derisive of any person of faith who dares to say they want to protect trees or the environment.   They claim most religious people believe their god has provided the blessings of the natural world for them to dominate and exploit. One commentator cites the way former American Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt who was given his post by Donald Trump used Bible verses to justify policies he put in place that had potentially devastating consequences for the environment.

Poplar Woods by Lionel LeMoine Fitzgerald. Photographed at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. 

And here in Canada we have little reason to be smug about the attitude of our American neighbours. Ironically on the day before Arbor Day the government of Ontario announced it will end a program that aimed to plant 50 million trees in their province. 

Metchosin by Emily Carr. Photographed at the Winnipeg Art Gallery.

On the weekend just prior to Arbor Day Christians began their celebration of Easter, a time of new beginnings, new life and new hope.  Planting and caring for trees can be a way to celebrate all those things.

Other posts……….

Happy Earth Day

Imitating Emily

Two Trees


Filed under Art, Nature, Religion

A Night at De Luca’s- You Have to Talk About the Food

dinner at de lucasThursday night I attended a cooking class at De Luca’s restaurant with my sister and two of her friends. tony our hostOur affable host Tony welcomed us to his well-known family establishment which opened in 1968chef mikeand introduced us to Chef Mike who would show us how each dish was prepared. tomato soup First up was a tomato soup served along with three kinds of fresh bread. owner de lucasTony was on hand to answer any questions we might have about ingredients or cooking methods. Television screens at key spots in the room allowed us to see the chef’s hands in action. He prepared a mouth- watering mushroom gnocchi next.  There was time in between each course for us to talk about travel adventures, work, our families and of course the delicious food. A chicken breast arrived next complete with pine nuts, a sweet potato sauce and kale. Just when we thought we couldn’t eat another bite the tiramisu was delivered to our table , too decadent and delicious to refuse.

It was interesting to hear the chef talk about the food, our host talk about the food, and to talk about the food with each other.  Kurt Vonnegut was right when he said………..

You can’t just eat good food. You’ve got to talk about it too.”   

Other posts………..

A Chocolate Evening with Beatriz

Cooking Up A Storm in the Yucatan

Home Grown in Newfoundland

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Filed under Food, Restaurants

Check Out the Kids’ Section

Yesterday on Jeopardy the current champion James Holzhauer who has won over a million dollars so far was asked by host Alex Trebek how he had prepared for competition.  James said he had done most of his studying in the children’s section of the library.  There he could read about all kinds of topics in a simple straightforward way that helped him recall all the basic facts he needed to know about an event, person, country or geographical landmark. 

I just nodded my head because I use James’ technique  too.  Often if  I need information about a scientific principle or a historical event for a column or blog post I am writing I will search online for a kids’ version.  

For example the other day I was doing a blog post about Margaret Thatcher the first woman to hold the office of British Prime minister. Googling just her name brought up long-winded essays and biographies.  Then I typed margaret thatcher for kids into the search bar and I was quickly led to a three-minute cartoon biography of Margaret Thatcher  that taught me basically everything I needed to know about her.  

Aimee Miles in an article for Book Riot says reading materials marketed for children can offer an opportunity for growth and education for adults as well because they often break down complicated ideas or issues and explain them in a straightforward way.  So the next time you want to learn something new or do some research and don’t have time to wade through a plethora of information just check out the material for kids. James Holzhauer did and became a millionaire!

Other posts………

Coloring Books Aren’t Just For Kids

Why Adults Are Reading Teen Fiction

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Well At Least You Like Writing

report writingI missed writing on my blog yesterday because I was busy writing reports.  There is only one week left till the university student teachers I supervise finish their practicum blocks in classrooms in two inner city schools.  I have to write three informal reports for each of them and one longer formal report, so with eight students on my roster that’s thirty-two reports.   These aren’t checklists like some report cards, but are more like essays filled with specific anecdotes. Each final report has to be vetted by both the cooperating teachers in the classrooms where the students work, and by the students themselves. Appropriate edits and changes are made till we all agree it accurately reflects the student’s performance.

My task becomes easier if I take detailed and copious notes each time I observe a student in action.  My problem is I often get sidetracked by the interesting lesson topics or my interactions with the children in the room and then suddenly realize I haven’t made as many notes as I should.  

With a group of my student teachers and the staff members who supported them taken several years ago.

I was telling someone about the mountain of report writing I was doing this week and she said, “Well at least you like writing.”  And that is certainly true.  I do like writing and sometimes crafting the reports is enjoyable but I am always mindful that my words in these reports could be a factor in the ability of my students to find future employment so I have to try  to be positive but at the same time fair and honest.  I used to feel some of the same tension when I was a high school teacher in Hong Kong and was asked to write dozens of recommendation letters each year for my senior students seeking admittance to universities abroad. 

Working on a writing project in my office in Hong Kong. 

I do like writing and I do lots of it.  I write meditations, blog posts, newspaper columns, short stories, novels, picture books, book reviews, sermons, workshop presentations, letters, brochure contents, magazine articles, anthology contributions, histories, announcements, tweets and reports. Each kind of writing has its joys and challenges and although writing my student reports can be a good experience, I’m glad it is nearly over for another year and I get to concentrate on other kinds of writing again. 

Other posts……….

Conversations About Writing

A Top Ten List From A Top Notch Writer

Persuade Me


Filed under Writing

What Happens When A Woman Takes Power?

A trio of Quebec suffragettes who fought for 22 years to get women the right to vote in their province.

What happens when a woman takes power?

What happens when she won’t back down?

What happens when a woman takes power?

What happens? What happens? 

Last night I attended a choir concert at Garden City Collegiate. There was lots of terrific music on the program but one of the evening’s truly memorable moments for me was when the senior women’s choir conducted by my talented daughter-in-law formed an arc across the stage and sang in bold brave voices What Happens When A Woman Takes Power?

What happens when she rules her own body?

What happens when she sets the beat?

What happens when she bows to nobody?

What happens when she stands on her own two feet? 

The song was written by a Chicago women’s trio called Artemisia. You can hear them singing What Happens When A Woman Takes Power here.

Self- portrait by Baroque artist Artemisia Gentileschi

The singing trio Artemisia, whose members wrote and arranged What Happens When A Woman Takes Power are named after three strong women in history- a queen of ancient Greece who led her city state to a resounding naval victory- an Italian painter who was the first female member of Florence’s Academy of The Arts and a Greek goddess who was an accomplished hunter as well as an accomplished mid wife.

Jacinda Arden the Prime Minister of New Zealand and mother of a one year old daughter who led her country with love after a terrorist attack on a mosque

We rise above

We lead with love  

We have won  

We are one

We’ve just began

Seeing all those teenage women from Garden City Collegiate singing boldly about powerful women ,who lead with love, who don’t let men decide what happens to their bodies, and who don’t back down in the face of injustice was just so incredibly hope inspiring.  I dream of living long enough to see women serve in all the major positions of power in the world, leading with love and setting a progressive beat for our world!

Note:  You can check out another version of this powerful song sung by both men and women here. 

Other posts…………

Women Were Honored?  Think Again!

Proud of the New Words For Canada’s National Anthem

International Day of the Girl



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Filed under Music

Happy Earth Day!

Isn’t our earth just the most amazing place? We need to treat it with care so our grandchildren will be able to enjoy its beauty the way we have. 

Wild waterfall in Laos.

Majestic Grand Canyon in Arizona

Lucious lipstick plant in Bali

Pungent pine in Portugal

Blooming bugambella tree in Mexico.  

Rippling Baden See in Germany 

Icy crystal clear waters at the foot of Jade Snow Mountain in Yunnan China

Vibrant rainbow in Iceland

Trailing trilliums in southern Ontario

Rugged rocks in Utah

Towering trees in Akaka Falls State Park Hawaii

Refreshing waterfall in Costa Rica

Spectacular caves in Halong Bay Vietnam

Gorgeous island scape in Hong Kong

Ever changing waters of Moose Lake Manitoba 

Branching birch in Newfoundland

Beautiful beach in Fiji

Steamy Wai O Tapu Thermal Field in New Zealand

Marvelous mud at the Dead Sea in Israel

Happy Earth Day!

Other posts………..

Lessons From Oscar



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The Women of the Easter Story

Station of the cross, Saint Symphorian church of Pfettisheim, Bas-Rhin, France.

Station of the Cross Saint Symphorian church of Pfettisheim, Bas-Rhin, France.

A large crowd trailed behind Jesus including many grief-striken women. But Jesus turned to them and said, “Do not weep for me.”- Luke 23:27-28


The Crucifixion by Vladimir Borovikovsky

Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister and Mary Magdalene.  John 19:25

The Three Marys at the Sepulcher by Peter Von Cornelius

On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb.  They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.

Holy Women at the Tomb by Peter Paul Rubens

While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them……

Three Marys at the Tomb by Sally K. Green

And one  said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead?  He is not here; he has risen!  Luke 24:1-6

Christ’s Appearance to Mary Magdalene After the Ressurection by Alexander Ivanov

At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.  He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.”  She turned toward him and cried out “Teacher.”- John 20:14-16

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Filed under Art, Religion

Christian Easter Images Enriched

I photographed this painting Nuestro Senor el Desollado (Our Lord, The One Who is Flayed), 2004  by Paul Pletka at the Phoenix Art Gallery .  It depicts the staging of the crucifixion of Jesus traditionally done in Mexico during Lent. Interestingly in this painting the artist has mixed Catholic images with images from ancient Mayan and Aztec religions, the religious traditions of Central America prior to the Spanish occupation.

Pletka’s painting reminds me of Parfleches for the Last Supper an artwork in the collection of the Winnipeg Art Gallery where indigenous artist Robert Houle uses images from his Anishinaabe spiritual heritage to represent each of the disciples who shared Jesus’ last meal before his death with him.  

Our understanding of the stories from our own faith heritage can be enriched when we open them to interpretation by those whose faith ancestry is different, and in the case of the heritage of these two artists,much older than our own.  

Other posts……..

Another Creation Story

Another Last Supper

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