Category Archives: Art

Industrial Doilies

oil drum skeletal red map cal laneIndustrial doilies.  That’s what some people call Canadian artist Cal Lane’s pieces.  Her work Oil Drum Skeletal Red Map is now on display at the Winnipeg Art Gallery as part of an exhibit called Ways of Seeming.  Like most of her sculptures this one is made from repurposed steel. Cal used a welding torch to turn an old oil can into this delicate lacy map.  Cal dissected the can and rolled it open. She’s kept the two ends of the barrel as well and has made the North and South poles with them. 

Cal Lane panty tank-smCal uses not only old oil cans, but old shovels and wheelbarrows and other steel objects to create her art. cal_lane_art

 Oil Drum Skeletal Red Map is a piece that can hold your attention for a long time because there are so many interesting things to see in Cal’s intricate lacy designs. lane oil drum map

It is going to be a fun “I Spy” piece to examine with children. skeletal map cal lane

detail red map landNote:  For younger blog readers who may not know what a doily is- it’s a small ornamental lacy piece of fabric that is often placed beneath something.  Doilies were very popular sixty or seventy years ago. My grandmothers both made doilies and had them scattered on various pieces of furniture around their homes.

grandma's embroidery

An embroidery and lace doily made by my grandmother Margaretha Peters

Other posts…………

Art From All Kinds of Things

Tin Can Art And Feeding the Homeless


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Farewell to the French Moderns

I gave my last two tours of the French Moderns exhibit at the Winnipeg Art Gallery on Thursday and Friday.  The Thursday tour was for thirty three university students taking an art history course and the Friday tour was for eighteen grade three students from a private Winnipeg school.  The university students didn’t talk much.  They listened intently though and many were busy making notes since they had an assignment to do based on the tour.  The eight year olds were buzzing and full of queries, comments and ideas. They were so excited to be at the art gallery!

I have toured many different kinds of groups through the French Moderns exhibit since June, from three year olds to senior citizens. In the process I have come to know many of the people in the paintings as friends.  During my last two tours I bid a fond farewell to them. 

The solemn and charming siblings in The Elder Sister by William Bourguereau. 

The three amazingly strong and beautiful women in Jules Breton’s The End of the Working Day. The colorful Egyptian entrepreneur in Jean-Léon Gérôme’s The Carpet Merchant of Cairo. 

The perfectly posed and winesome Young Girl on A Bench by Édouard Manet.

The entrancing American philanthropist Florence Blumenthal in Giovanni Boldini’s Portrait of a Lady. 

The doting mother and her loving child in Berthe Morisot’s portrait of her cousin Mme Boursier and Her Daughter

The pensive and lovely Madame Léon Maître by Henri-Fantis Latour. 

The aloof distracted woman and the woman throughly engaged with her child In The Omnibus by Mary Cassatt. 

The hardy windblown French farmer in Shepherd Tending his Flock by Jean-Francois Millet.The mysterious veiled lady in Marie Laurencin’s Woman in Scarf.

When I go to the Winnipeg Art Gallery this morning for a meeting the process of taking down all these paintings of my friends will have begun.  I am going to miss them. 

Other posts……….

Japanese Art and the Impressionists

Tantalizing Tidbits

Without Him We Might Not Even Recognize the Name Monet


Filed under Art, WInnipeg Art Gallery

The Perfect Novel For Me

madonnas of leningradMy friend Marilyn recommended The Madonnas of Leningrad by Debra Dean and it was the perfect novel for me.  I am an art gallery tour guide and so is Marina, the main character in the book.

trucks leave the hermitage in 1941

Trucks filled with artwork leave the Hermitage in 1941

Marina is a docent at the Hermitage Museum.  During the siege of Leningrad in 1941 all the canvases in the galleries are taken down, and shipped away to the Ural Mountains to be hidden from the approaching German army. The Hermitage walls hold only the paintings’ frames. Most of the museum staff have left their homes and taken refuge in the basement of the museum.

hermitage hall during seige

One of the gallery halls during the siege

In order to preserve her sanity Marina begins walking through the galleries and looking at the empty frames.  She remembers the paintings that once hung there and begins to describe them in detail, making the artworks come alive even though they are gone.  

The museum housed many, many paintings of the Madonna and it becomes especially important to Marina to remember how these art pieces look once she realizes she is pregnant. Her fiancée is on the battlefront and she doesn’t know if she will ever see him again. Near the end of the novel she is describing one of these Madonna paintings by Raphael to a group of young boys.  Even though the painting isn’t there she makes it real for them. 

the holy family by raphael hermitage

The Holy Family by Raphael – Hermitage Museum

“This is a wonderous painting because Raphael took these mythical characters, the Virgin Mary and Joseph and the Christ Child and he reimagined them as real people in an actual family. It is a rather melancholy painting. On one side we have Mary. She is beautiful but very distant and unaware. And quite apart from her is Joseph. He is much older than Mary and leans on his walking stick and looks almost frail. Between them standing on the mother’s lap is the Christ Child. He’s a mama’s boy. He is eyeing Joseph fearfully and his arms are reaching out to his mother. Joseph has an expression of resigned disappointment, a father whose child rejects him for the mother. One doesn’t notice the halos at first but they are there fine as piano wires. It’s almost as though Raphael was saying that what sets them apart from any other family is almost invisible. They might be us.” pg. 221 and 222 of The Madonnas of Leningrad.

What an eye and a way with words Marina has!  She is an inspiration to all guides as we try to make art come alive for the people we take on our tours.  

Other posts………….

A Book Takes Me Back to Rome

Thinking About Mothers at the Met

The Family of Jesus Portrayed in a Controversial Way

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Grandfather I Have Something To Tell You

“You never  kill an animal just for fun,” artist Michael Massie’s grandfather taught him when he was just a boy.  “You take its life only if you need it for food.”  
One day when Michael was twelve or thirteen he was camping with his grandfather, cousins and siblings.  While his grandfather went to get supplies the children were left alone for a time.  Michael  noticed a small bird called a Tom Tit, not much bigger than his thumb.  He grabbed his pellet gun and shot it. The other kids told him what he’d done was wrong.  Michael buried the little bird but never told his grandfather that he had killed it. He always felt badly about that. Making this sculpture was a kind of confession in stone thirty years later. Describing his art piece Michael says one hand is gloved to show how he covered up the truth the other is bare to say he is being open and confessing. He holds the little dead bird in his hand. 

When I take children on a tour of the current SakKijâjuk exhibit at the Winnipeg Art Gallery this art piece is always their favourite!  They love the story that goes with it.  I heard it first from the exhibit curator Dr. Heather Igloliorte.  I like the idea of using a piece of art to reach across time and space to confess and apologize to someone you love. 

Other posts……………

Inuit Art Isn’t Just Soapstone Carvings

Stories in Stone

A Very Personal Story

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Filed under Art, Family, WInnipeg Art Gallery


hymn sing programI took my father to the Hymn Sing Reunion Concert on Sunday. For readers who don’t know, Hymn Sing was a Canadian television program from the 1960s to the 1990s.  Every year a group of promising young singers was chosen to present a weekly Sunday night concert of familiar Christian hymns.  The show, filmed in Winnipeg, was hugely popular across the country, sometimes garnering a viewership greater than that of Hockey Night in Canada.

hymn sing reunionI was definitely one of the younger people at the reunion concert at Bethel Mennonite Church on Sunday afternoon which featured sixty former Hymn Sing performers. It was sold out. What drew such a big audience to the concert?  I think it was nostalgia for hymns that may not be sung in churches very much anymore, nostalgia for the kind of religious and contemplative television programming we don’t see much of anymore, and perhaps nostalgia for a time when things were a little more black and white. 

Aga RSZ-50 - Diora - E070 (wiki)I noticed in the Hymn Sing Concert program that one of the event’s sponsors was Nostalgia Radio CJNU.  Last Thursday I gave a group of staff and board members from Nostalgia Radio a tour of the French Moderns Exhibit at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. I asked them about their radio station and they told me it is run by retired broadcasters and other folks who were nostalgic for music of bygone decades, music that is sometimes hard to find on other Winnipeg radio stations. They play that kind of music everyday as well as lend their support to a whole variety of community and cultural groups including the Winnipeg Art Gallery. 

shepherd tending his flock millet brooklyn museum

Shepherd Tending His Flock – Jean-François Millet- 1860

A painting I discussed with the Nostalgia radio crew was this one of a shepherd by Jean-Francois Millet.  Lisa Small, curator from the Brooklyn Museum where Millet’s painting makes its permanent home, says one of the reasons paintings like Millet’s of the shepherd were so popular in the late 1800s  was that the rapid rise of industrialization meant many families had left their farms and villages to move to the city. They were nostalgic for their country roots. Millet’s paintings took them back to their childhoods in rural France. 

This past week I’ve been reminded that music and art can be powerful inspirations for nostalgia. 

Other posts………..

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Filed under Art, Media, Music, WInnipeg Art Gallery

A Pool of Possibilities in Our Own Backyards

Years ago I visited an exhibit at the Mendel Art Gallery in Saskatoon called The Pool Project by photographer Courtney Milne . The Mendel Art Gallery is no longer open and Courtney died in 2010 but the memory of that exhibit has stayed with me.

Image by Courtney Milne- Pool Project- University of Saskatchewan

The Pool Project was a series of photographs selected from the thousands Courtney Milne took of the swimming pool in his backyard over a period of ten years.  A swimming pool sounds like a kind of mundane subject for photos but Milne’s were absolutely stunning!

image by courtney milne from pool of possibilities

Image by Courtney Milne- Pool of Possibilities- University of Saskatchewan Library

In 1999 Milne was busy touring Canada for a new book but whenever he was home he would snap photos of the swimming pool in his backyard in various lights and seasons.

Image by Courtney Milne- Pool Project- University of Saskatchewan Library

Once he started, he was intrigued that no matter when he looked out the window of his house at his pool it appeared different. Choosing his top ten photos of the year in 1999 he realized they were all of his swimming pool, even though he had photographed some pretty exotic places abroad, and thus the Pool Project began.

Image by Courtney Milne- Pool Project- University of Saskatchewan

Milne took thousands more photos of his pool. It became a place of healing, empowerment, surprise and wisdom for him. Milne had been to some of the most famous places in the world to take pictures for his book Sacred Earth. He had traveled to Easter Island- the pyramids in Egypt- Machu Picchu- the Li River in China, but he found the greatest beauty and enlightenment simply by carefully observing the swimming pool in his own backyard. 

What is in our own backyards to discover? Can we like Milne, find places of beauty and surprise just by sitting in our backyards or out on our balconies, walking in our neighbourhoods or exploring our home province? 

“We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
 Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.” 
-T.S. Eliot- Four Quartets

Other posts……….


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Marc Chagall and Fiddler on the Roof

marc chagall the musician brooklyn museum no copyright restrictions

The Musician by Marc Chagall- 1912- Brooklyn Museum

The first time I saw The Musician by Marc Chagall in the current French Moderns exhibit at the Winnipeg Art Gallery I was reminded of the fiddler in the musical Fiddler on the Roof.  I wondered if there could be a connection between the French artist and the musical.   I knew Chagall was Jewish and had been born in Russia and that Fiddler on the Roof is set in a Jewish community in Ukraine so I decided to follow my instincts and do a little research.  Sure enough! Turns out Chagall definitely influenced the creators, director and set designer of the musical . But there are varying opinions as to which painting of Chagall’s specifically provided that inspiration since the artist painted quite a number of works that featured musicians playing violins.  

Some folks think the painting of Chagall’s that comes closest to the image of the fiddler in Fiddler on the Roof is …….


The Green Violinist by Marc Chagall – 1924 Guggenheim Museum

Others would nominate …….

le mort by marc chagall

Le Mort- Marc Chagall- 1924- Private Owner

And Chagall’s Wikipedia page says the inspiration was……

the fiddler marc chagall

The Fiddler- Marc Chagall-1912-Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam.

I decided it could also have been The Musician, the painting currently on display at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. If you’ve seen the musical Fiddler on the Roof which candidate would you choose as the inspiration behind the Broadway hit?

Don’t forget the French Moderns show is only on at the Winnipeg Art Gallery for a few more weeks.  You don’t want to miss seeing Chagall’s work as well as that of many other impressive French artists. 

Other posts………….

A Legendary Love Story Illustrated by an Artistic Legend

De Ja Vu at the United Nations



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