Author Archives: maryloudriedger

About maryloudriedger

MaryLou Driedger lives in Winnipeg Manitoba where she works as free lance writer, a tour guide in the school programs department at the Winnipeg Art Gallery and a faculty supervisor for the University of Winnipeg's education department. She is a retired teacher who moved to Winnipeg after living and working in Hong Kong for six years.

Haunted by the Movie Wild Life

Haunted is the word that came to mind when someone asked me to describe the movie Wild Life.  My husband Dave chose Wild Life as a Valentine’s Day movie we could watch together.  Sadly, although it is a film about love, it chronicles the ending of a love story.

I was haunted by the stunning cinematography in this movie.  I kept thinking as I watched it that certain scenes on which the camera lingered could have been painted by Edward Hopper or perhaps Andrew Wyeth. It is beyond me how  this film could not have garnered an Oscar nomination for cinematography. 

I was haunted by the stunning performances of all three main actors.  Joe Brinson plays fourteen year old Ed Oxenbould, a nice kid who is finding out as every child eventually does, that the parents he loved and idolized are actually very flawed human beings.  Jerry Brinson, Joe’s father, is an out of work golf professional played by Jake Gyllenhaal who is struggling with trying to fullfill his expected 1950s role as family head and bread winner.  Carey Mulligan is Joe’s mother Jeannette who is trying to find out who she is in the 1950s when a women’s main role was wife and mother and finding an identity outside that expected framework was hard.  

Although each of the main characters in this movie makes some tragic choices you still are ever so drawn to them, you care deeply about them and you feel their pain. I cannot understand why all three were not nominated for an Oscar.  They are brilliant!

I was haunted by the wild fires in Montana that provide a back drop to this movie.  They give a scary edge to some scenes especially one in which Joe and his mother Jeannette go out the location where their husband and father Jerry is fighting the forest fires.  Joe is so scared his parents’ marriage is going up in flames and that adds an extra ragged shard of fear to a scene where Joe is way too close to the raging fire.

I was haunted by the final scene in this movie.  It was a brilliant bit of film making. A beautiful moment but oh so very heart rendingly sad.  

Wild Life probably wasn’t a great pick for a Valentine’s Day movie but it was a great movie!

Other posts about sad movies……..

Wedding Night

The Moral of A Star is Born

What If You Could No Longer Do The Thing You Loved the Most? 

Flaws Make the Character

 

 

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The Symphony Mexican Style

Yesterday we went to the grand and palatial Teatro Peon Contreras in Merida to hear a performance by the Yucatan Symphony. It was worth going just to see the gorgeous theatre built in 1907 with its huge promenadeinteresting ceiling detailsand grand marble staircases. We arrived a little early to soak up the beauty of our surroundings. We weren’t able to get tickets with my sister and her husband but they were seated directly across the hall from us in the third balcony, second loge from the right. The Yucatan Symphony Orchestra treated us to an overture by Brahms, a concerto for two violins by Malcolm Arnold and Schumann’s Symphony No. 4.  My favorite was the concerto which I thought could easily have served as the soundtrack for a scary movie. There was a guest conductor from Austin named Robert Carter.  I was struck by the  wide variety of ages in the symphony musicians and if their names in the program were any indication they were almost all of Spanish or Mexican origin. 

After the concert which started at 12 noon we went out for a late lunch and then my sister and I posed on the concert hall steps which by then were free of the crowds that had packed them before. 

We often attend performances of the Winnipeg Symphony in their concert hall which is just across the street from our home in Winnipeg.  It was interesting to go to the symphony in another country where the surroundings and audience members and musicians may have been different but the beauty and pleasure derived from good music was not. 

Other posts……….

Come From Away- A Musical For Our Time

An Artist’s Date For My Mom

Prague – A City of Music

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Another Last Supper

“MaryLou. The Last Supper.”  My sister pointed out a traditional print hanging on the wall near the table in a private home in Merida Mexico where she and I we were participating in a cooking class.  I immediately took a photo of the print.  My sister knows I collect photos of artworks depicting the Biblical Last Supper Jesus shared with his disciples.  I have found interesting versions in all kinds of places.I found this one in the city museum in Sydney Australia in 2010. It was created by aboriginal artist Linda Syddick. The U shapes at the bottom represent the twelve disciples.  The one for Judas who betrayed Jesus stands out from the rest since it is a different color and facing a different way. Jesus is serving the disciples billy tea instead of wine and damper a kind of Australian soda bread. I photographed this Last Supper made out of sand in Sedona Arizona on a family visit there in 1990.Steffi Lee one of my grade five students in Hong Kong in 2004 made this version of Da Vinci’s Last Supper for a project I assigned when we were doing a unit on the Renaissance in our social studies class. last supper tamarindo costa ricaI found this wooden engraved one in a Catholic Church in Tamarindo Costa Rica.

houle parfleches for the last supper

Parfleches for the Last Supper by Robert Houle at the Winnipeg Art Gallery

Parfleches for the Last Supper is a series of twelve artworks by Robert Houle that is part of the collection of the Winnipeg Art Gallery.  Houle has designed a traditional parfleche (a bag for sacred objects) for Jesus and each of the twelve disciples who were present at the Last Supper. Note the black one for Judas and the white one for John in the bottom row.I photographed this colourful wool tapestry version of the last supper at the front of a small church on Waya Island in Fiji where we attended services one Sunday morning in 2011. I saw this copper version of the Last Supper by Albert Gilles on a visit to a gallery in Quebec City in 2015. This one was discovered on the wall of a noodle shop in Kyoto Japan.  Jesus and his disciples are enjoying some ramen noodles. 

Other posts……….

Parfleches for the Last Supper

A Black and White Religion

Inspiration in Fiji

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The La Ceiba Tree

We are staying in a community called La Ceiba just a short drive from Merida the capital city of the Yucatan.  The ceiba is a kind of tree and the avenue leading into our community is named after it because it is lined with many ceiba trees.

Ceiba tree on the first hole of the La Ceiba Golf Course

The trunk of the ceiba is largely branchless.

Can you see Dave hiding behind the tall roots on this tree?

It has a huge spreading canopy and often its roots are quite tall and can be seen above ground.  

If you look closely on the trunk of this tree you can see the protective thorns

Young ceiba trees have thorny spines protruding from the trunk to discourage wild rodents from damaging the trunk.  The ancient Mayans believed the ceiba tree was sacred and provided a route for communication between three worlds.  

Ceiba tree near our house

The roots reached down to the underworld,  the trunk represented the world where we humans live and the canopy of branches arched high to symbolize the upper world which included the thirteen levels of the Mayan heaven. On an art tour in Merida my sister drew my attention to this beautiful rendition of a ceiba by Alejandro Barrios and it inspired me to learn more about this unique tree .  

You can find ceiba trees as far north as Mexico and as far south as Argentina. 

Other posts……………..

Trees

Two Trees – Forty One Years

Tree Inspiration

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All in The Family

Melva Medina welcomes us to her family’s gallery which features her and her husband’s work as well as that of their daughters

Melva Medina and her husband Abel Vazquez are artists who live, work and teach in an lovely restored colonial mansion in downtown Merida, Mexico. It serves both as their home and their gallery.  Their studio and workshop is just two blocks away. We visited the Nahualli Casa de Artistas on a walking tour organized by the English Library in Merida.  

Generosa Existencia or Generous Existence by Melva Medina- note the corn at the left side of the drawing- the Mayan creation story describes how human beings were created from an ear of corn

A bronze sculpture version of Generosa Existencia or Generous Existence by Melva Medina

Melva told us about her work which centers on themes of female strength and empowerment.

Do Not Touch or No Lo Toques by Abel Vazquez

She also talked about the work of her husband Abel which explores the connection between human beings and nature.  Some of Abel and Melva’s pieces reminded me of similar works that are part of the Inuit art collection at the Winnipeg Art Gallery and show people transforming into animals and animals into people.  When I mentioned this to Melva she told me that it was exactly that idea that inspired the name of their family’s gallery. On the gallery website she explains that the origin of the word nahualli means unseen, the hidden, what is deep within.  She says that many first peoples in North America from the Inuit in the north to the Mayans in the south believe that every person at birth already has the spirit of an animal(nahual) that is responsible to protect and guide them through life and help them accomplish their mission. I was enthralled by Abel’s life- like sculptures of women that graced the pool area of their home. This one reminded me of a piece we have at the Winnipeg Art Gallery called Linda by Elizabeth Wyn Wood. The colorful and provocative work of Melva and Abel’s daughter Alma Citalli was also on display. My very favorite piece was near the front door. It was called Pensamiento or Thought.  From each angle and at different distances you were captured by yet another aspect of the sculpture’s beauty.  Thoughtful or thought provoking would be a great way to describe many of the pieces at the Nahualli Casa de Artistas.  In fact on their website they say they hope their House of Art will be charged with energy, inspire deep thought and foster a spiritual experience.

Note: I was so taken with Nahualli Casa de Artistas that my sister and I went back to visit it another day and were privileged to be given a guided tour of Melva and Abel’s studio and learn about a very special exhibit Melva created with her second daughter Aura Meztli Vazquez that addresses the issue of sexual abuse. I  will need some time to process that experience and will write about it in a later post.  

Other posts……….

Jaguars in the Bathroom

A Violent and Bloody History

Another Creation Story

 

 

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A Spark of Light

The current challenges facing abortion rights in the United States made Jodi Picoult’s novel A Spark of Light a timely read for me. 

In the story an angry father who believes his daughter had an abortion at a women’s center goes on a shooting rampage there, killing staff members and patients and taking hostages. Will he kill more people?

Picoult introduces us to several women that have had abortions. Their stories remind us of pro-active things countries can do to reduce their abortion rates since history shows us that criminalization of the procedure has proven to be very ineffective.

One of Picoult’s characters is an insecure teenager named Beth. She comes from a very religious family and has her first sexual encounter with an attractive Ivy League college student who flatters her with his attentions on a one- time visit to her community.  When asked why she didn’t use birth control Beth says she’d heard from a friend at church you couldn’t get pregnant the first time you had sex.

This kind of misinformation is a result of a lack of comprehensive sex education in schools, an education that should introduce high school students to many forms of birth control not just abstinence. As Picoult points out in a scene in her novel, ironically it is often the same religious groups that are anti-abortion who want to limit sex education in schools.

It is probably no coincidence that the Netherlands has the lowest abortion rate in the world. All secondary schools there have mandatory comprehensive health education programs that address sexuality and many forms of contraception. Teens in the Netherlands have wide access to confidential contraceptive services.

Joy, another character in Picoult’s novel is a struggling university student. She has several part time jobs. That means her employers don’t have to provide health care or maternity leave benefits. Joy finds herself pregnant despite the fact she was using birth control. She knows she can’t get a good job unless she finishes school. How will she study, support a child, and care for it properly?  She can’t afford prenatal care or health care for her child once it is born. Her partner won’t help. Joy herself was a product of the foster care system and doesn’t wish that fate on her child. So she opts for an abortion. 

Many studies prove countries with free health care, generous paid maternity leaves, subsidized post- secondary education, affordable daycare services and high minimum wage levels have lower abortion rates than countries that don’t offer those advantages.  Apparently about 75% of American women who have abortions cite economic factors for their decision.  They say they can’t afford a child because it will interfere with their work, studies, or their ability to care for the children they already have.

Ironically in the United States the Republican Party, supported by evangelical Christian groups that favor stricter anti-abortion laws, is also the party that wants to get rid of the subsidized health care system established by President Obama. They seem bent on reducing the number of government social services in their country even though it is those very services that would reduce abortion rates.

(AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

Jodi Picoult interviewed hundreds of of anti-abortion activists, pro-choice leaders and women who’d had abortions before writing her novel. She found them all very sincere and caring. She discovered whether people are pro-choice or pro-life they desire the same end result- fewer abortions. They just don’t agree on how to make that happen. Picoult hopes her book will open a dialogue that may allow the two sides to work together to meet their common goal.

Other posts………..

Tolerating Other Christians

Abortion and Summer Jobs

Blaming Satan is Misguided and Dangerous

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A Bloody Violent History

Since I am spending two months in the Yucatan I wanted to learn a little more about the history of the area. What better way to do that than through art?  

Visiting Chichen Itza in 2007

On previous visits to Mexico I had been at two different Mayan archelogical sites and learned about the early history of the Yucatan.  Last Thursday I went to the Governor’s Palace in Merida and walked through a room full of huge murals by Fernando Castro Pacheco that provided a window into the country’s history from 1500-1900. It is a bloody and violent story indeed. 

The Yucatan was ‘discovered’ in 1517 by a Spanish explorer named Cordova. A decade later a fellow named Fancisco de Montejo arrived to conquer the Yucatan but was sent packing after a bloody conflict with the local people. Fernando Castro Pacheco conquest of the yucatanHe would need to make two more military forays before he could successfully establish a capital city at the site of present day Merida in 1542.  

Of course once the military have established ground in a conquered country the religious folks are sure to follow close behind. Meet Franscican monk Fray Diego De Landa who build thirty convents in the Yucatan and tried to convert the Mayans to Christianity. In 1562 he ordered all Mayan books and artworks and statues destroyed.   The oppression of the Spanish caused starvation amongst the natives and the diseases the Spanish introduced to the Mayan population killed nearly two million of them by the mid 1600s.  The Mayans tried to fight back repeatedly. Jacinto Canek led an indigenous rebellion against the government in 1761. He and his supporters fought fiercely but were defeated and Canek was ordered quartered and burned with red hot knives and pokers in the center square of Merida.  A demand for inexpensive binder twine in the United States and Europe in the 1800s created a huge demand for the sisal plant which grows in the Yucatan.  Employing the Mayans as slave labourers Spanish families made fortunes.  During the 1800s  the Yucatan struggled to remain independent from Mexico and the native Mayans continued to revolt against the Spanish ruling class in a fifty year conflict known as the Caste Wars. In the 1900s reformers like Salvador Alvarado who was the governor of the Yucatan from 1915-1918 began to make important changes. Alvarado became known as the ‘liberator of the Mayan slaves’  and tired to bring about reforms in education, treatment of women and strict class distinctions. 

Visiting the governor’s palace and seeing the art there was a good way to get a crash course in some four hundred years of Yucatan history. 

Other posts…….

Ten Things About Tulum

Visiting Chichen Itza

Fish For Lunch

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