Category Archives: Art

Five Sisters

Over the last few weeks I’ve been doing blog posts about women whose stories are in the Bible, but may not be that well-known.  I’ve included artwork that illustrates those stories. Each story is one that was featured in presentations I did at a women’s retreat near the end of October.  Here is another one of those stories.

The Daughters of Zelophehad by Iris Wexler

In ancient times there lived a man named Zelophehad. Along with the other Israelites his family was on the long journey from Egypt to the land God had promised.  Zelophehad knew when they arrived in that longed for place he would inherit property along with the other sons of Israel. 

Zelophehad had five daughters Hoglah, Noah, Tirzah, Mahlah and Milcah. Because he had no sons his daughters helped him run the family business.  He owned vast herds of sheep and goats. He had many tents and servants. 

Unfortunately before any of his daughters married Zelophehad died unexpectedly.  Hoglah, Milcah, Noah, Tirzah and Mahlah were still in mourning when their uncles and male cousins appeared demanding that the five daughters turn over all their father’s livestock and tents to them. They told the young women that when the Israelites reached the promised land the property that had been set aside for their father would now be divided up amongst themselves.

The women were frightened and asked what was to become of them.  Their male relatives suggested they might have to split up and hire themselves out as servants to different families. It would be unfortunate but necessary because of a law established by their leader Moses that stated if a man died and he had no sons his nearest male relatives should inherit everything of his.

Hoglah, Milcah, Noah, Tirzah and Mahlah decided if indeed that was the law it was unfair. They would need to go and see Moses and ask him to change the law.  Their male relatives responded with scorn and sarcasm. Despite this the five sisters began the journey to where Moses held court for his people every day.

The Daughters of Zelophehad See Moses from a 1908 publication The Bible and Its Stories Told in One Thousand Pictures

When they arrived they asked to see him and although it was unprecedented for Moses to give women an audience he chose to hear the petition brought forward by the Daughters of Zelophehad.  He listened to their story and told them he would ask God for advice and get back to them. When he returned to the sisters he said after prayerful consideration he had decided……….that they were right.  The law was unfair.  He would change it and in the future if a man died and he had no sons his daughters could receive his inheritance.  The daughters of Zelophehad went home happy for the settled future they had secured for themselves and their descendants. 

This sculpture of the daughters of Zelophehad is by Judith Klausner

Although Moses had died by the time the children of Israel reached the Promised Land his successor Joshua honored the commitment Moses had made to Hoglah, Milcah, Mahlah, Tirzah and Noah and they did inherit the property that was to have been their father’s. 

The Daughters of Zelophehad by Glenda Thomas

The story of the daughters of Zelophehad is found in the Old Testament  (Numbers 27:1-11, Joshua 17:3-4). Each of the five daughters is named individually in these texts.

Illustration by Lisa Guinther from the book Bold Girls Speak

The account of the Daughters of Zelophehad has been referenced in many court cases as justification for women being accorded legal rights. 

The story of Mahlah, Hoglah, Noah, Tirzah and Milcah is one I love.  In 1999 I wrote a full length musical along with Craig Cassils about the story called the Daughters of Z . My Steinbach church Grace Mennonite performed it.  I have written a children’s picture book about the Daughters of Zelophehad and a longer version for older children both of which I am trying to get published.  One of the reasons I am so determined to have this story shared more widely is because although I attended Sunday School and church and Bible camp faithfully as a child I never heard it and yet I find it one of the most powerful stories in the Scriptures.

This 1897 drawing of Hoglah, Milcah, Tirzah, Noa and Mahlah by Charles Foster was in a book called Bible Pictures and What They Teach Us.  The Daughters of Zelophehad teach me how important it is to stand up for what I believe in, how doing that can change not only my future but the future of others. What am I doing now that will leave a legacy for the future for my children, my grandchildren, my church and community?

Atlanta artist, theologian and designer Lauren Wright Pittman has created this image of the Daughters of Zelophehad showing them as modern day reformers.

The Daughters of Zelophehad teach me that working together as a team with others helps us to achieve things beyond our wildest dreams. How can I facilitate that kind of team building in my family life, my work life, my church life and my community life?

I love this illustration of the Daughters of Zelophehad striding off to see Moses by San Diego artist Sheila Orysiek.

The Daughters of Zelophehad teach me to imagine the impossible is possible and how important it is to live in hope.  In our world with all its problems that kind of hope and wild dreaming is vital.

Other posts in this series…………

Mary’s Childhood

I Want to Be Like Anna

Meet Priscilla


Leave a comment

Filed under Art, Religion

A 91 year Old Inspiration

Dark Forest by Dorothy Knowles

On a visit to our children’s home in Saskatoon at the beginning of November I went to the Remai Modern Art Gallery for the first time. What a beautiful place! My grandsons enjoyed the gallery especially the sunny spacious room at the Remai where children can do their own creative projects.  

Trees by Dorothy Knowles

Interestingly it was the work of a 91 year old artist that drew my six year old grandson’s most dedicated attention. I told him the names of more than a half a dozen pieces of art by Dorothy Knowles and the next day when I showed him photos of those artworks he remembered the names of every single one. When he and I were drawing together one afternoon he suggested I try and recreate one of Dorothy’s paintings he liked the best called Trees. 

Spruce River by Dorothy Knowles

My grandson isn’t the only person Dorothy has impressed with her beautiful canvases.  Her career  began in the early 1950s when she enrolled in an art workshop at Emma Lake. She has been painting ever since. Dorothy has been given the Order of Canada for her contributions. Her paintings are in galleries across North America and have been featured on Canadian postage stamps. 

The Waiting Hills by Dorothy Knowles

Her work reminds me of the Group of Seven and Emily Carr.  Like those artists Dorothy often painted outside.  In an article in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix Dorothy says that in her work she is trying to pour onto her canvas her love of the prairie landscape, her love for the trees, and the wonderful radiance of the prairie sky. Dorothy says she simply paints what she sees but as she has grown older her eyes have been drawn to different things than they might have been drawn to when she was younger. That was an interesting idea for me to think about. Dorothy has also done some work that is more abstract. 

Memories of Home by Dorothy Knowles

Dorothy has been painting for more than 70 years and she continues to paint and grow and change as an artist.  She is an inspiration. It’s good to know that the creative process can continue even when you are in your ninth decade.  It means I may still have a few decades of being creative ahead of me. 

Other posts……….

Being Relevant

Don’t Be Scared to be Creative


Leave a comment

Filed under Art, Retirement

I Want To Be Like Anna

Anna is an inspiration! She is over a hundred years old but is still deeply involved in her community and active in both daily routines and relationships.  Her story is told in Luke 2: 36-38 where has a moving encounter with the infant Jesus in the Temple of Jerusalem when his parents bring him there to be circumcised.   Anna was one of the women I spoke about at a woman’s retreat at the end of October. 

In this colorful modern 2008 painting Texas artist James B. Janknegt shows Anna off to the right and a man named Simeon greeting Mary and Joseph as they bring Jesus to the temple.

This is how the renowned artist Rembrandt envisioned Anna in 1639. 

The Bible names her as a prophetess, in fact she is one of only a handful of women named a prophetess in the New Testament. This means her opinions and ideas were respected and people will have come to her with their concerns and questions and she will have offered them counsel and advice.  The Bible tells us she practically lived at the temple praying and fasting and praising, available around the clock to the people who needed her.  

She is an inspiration to me to fast from things like social media and my computer things that take up too much of my time and take me away from finding myself and relating to others.  Anna is an inspiration to me to pray for my family, my friends and our world.  Anna is an inspiration to be involved in serving others and to be positive.

In a painting by Arent Van Gelder done in 1727 Anna prays while Simeon holds Jesus.  Anna was only married for seven years when her husband died and she has lived as a widow for a very long time.  But she is not bitter. She is positive and optimistic.  She reaches out to help others. Upon seeing Jesus she is filled with hope that he will provide redemption for her people.   

I love the look of joy on Anna’s face in this artwork by Dutch artist Jan Van’t Hoff who is a modern painter living in Dordrect in the Netherlands.

The book of Luke identifies Anna as coming from the tribe of Asher.  Interestingly in Deuteronomy Moses says that people from Anna’s tribe will be blessed because their strength will equal their days.   My mother-in-law often told me that growing old was not for cowards. One needs strength equal to living out their days on this earth and Anna has clearly been blessed with that kind of strength.  I hope I will be able to claim it too.

Here Anna is once again portrayed by Rembrandt this time in 1631 and we see her intent on studying the Scriptures. It is believed Rembrandt used his own mother as his model for a number of paintings he made of Anna.

Robin Gallaher Branch a Fulbright scholar with a PHD in Hebrew Studies describes Anna as just a tad eccentric but also says her lifestyle clearly invigorated her.

I think that clearly shows in this artwork from the abbey of Mont St. Michael located on an island in Normandy France.   Look at Anna off to the right her hands held high in joy and excitement.

Dr. Branch says Anna is mobile, moving around the temple and singing, she is articulate telling everyone about her faith and what it means to her, she is alert and knows exactly what is going on when Jesus and his parents arrive at the Temple.  She is savvy and unselfish offering spiritual counsel and advice to those who need it.

 I want to be like Anna.   Perhaps just a tad crazy, keeping fit so I can be mobile and active, curious and interested in what is going on around me, engaged in creative pursuits and continuing to articulate what I believe about issues I am passionate about.

Anna gazes at Jesus in his mother’s arms in this 1640 painting The Adoration of the Infant Jesus by Dutch artist Matthias Stom.  In having the chance to meet the infant Jesus Anna’s dreams were fulfilled. She is living a full and rich life and then she gets to meet this special child who she believes will be a shining beacon for how the world might be saved- through care and kindness and being open and accepting of everyone, by following the way of peace.  This light filled artwork by Jerry Backik of St. Petersburg Florida reminds me that as I journey through the last season of my life I want to be just like Anna- still working to fulfill my dreams and allowing the children in my life to inspire my belief that there is hope for a better world. 

Other posts………

Meet Priscilla

Mary’s Childhood

 A Mother For King David- Who Knew?

Leave a comment

Filed under Art, Religion

In The Footsteps of Tom Thompson

hospice erie shoresThe day after my brother -in-law John’s funeral in Leamington, Ontario we toured the hospice where he had spent the last days of his life.  What a beautiful place!  Spacious light-filled rooms with private patios, fireplaces, desks and every amenity a resident or their family might need.  A grand piano to bring music into the building, a sunny garden room, a play area for children, a diningroom and kitchen where staff provided snacks and made to order meals to residents and their families, a library, and a special room for loved ones to rest or sleep or gather to talk. The morning we were there a group of women was busy creating the handmade quilts they stitch for every person who spends time at the hospice. 

children's art leamington hospiceThere was lots of beautiful art on the walls but I was particularly drawn to a display of work by middle school students.  They had studied Canada’s famous Group of Seven artists and then created their own paintings in that style to display in the hospice to cheer those who came there. group of seven kids projectA plaque on the wall explained their project and its name In The Footsteps of Tom Thompson.  Thompson was the founder of the Group of Seven art collective. 

art by kids leamington hospiceI love children’s art and the work at the hospice was especially meaningful because I knew how much my brother-in-law John had enjoyed art too. footsteps thom thompson

Other posts…….

Stopping By Woods

Through the Eyes of a Child

Oh To Be A Kid At the Fringe Festival 

1 Comment

Filed under Art, Education, Health, Uncategorized

Inuksuk or Inunnguaq?

inukshukI’ve recently discovered that although the fabulous 1989 sculpture on the rooftop of the Winnipeg Art Gallery by Manasie Akpaliapik is called Inuksuk it really isn’t one.  It is in fact a inunnguaq.  What’s the difference? 

inukshuks on Foxe Peninsula

Inukshuks on Foxe Peninsula- Baffin Island- photo by Ansgar Walk

According to the Canadian Encyclopedia inuksuks which have been found at sites that date from as long ago as 2400 BC, were formations of rocks used by people across the Arctic as markers for all kinds of purposes- navigational routes, good kayak landing spots, good hunting and fishing sites, locations of celebrations and caches of meat. These markers could be in many different formations. 

Inunnguaq on the other hand were shaped like human beings and could venerate a person, mark a spot for people to meet, or have spiritual significance. 


Flag of Nunavut

An article in the Toronto Globe and Mail discusses the use of the inuksuk or inukshuk on the flag of the Nunavut Territory and the way the inunnguaq was used as a symbol for the Canadian Olympics in 2010 but mistakenly called an inuksuk.  Some people think inukshuks and inunnguaqs are important Inuit cultural symbols and should not be used for decoration or marketing. What do you think?

Tourists from around the world are building impromptu inukshuks all over the place in Canada’s national parks and conservation officers are removing them because they alter the natural landscape. Are the officers doing the right thing? 

I’ve learned there are inunnguaqs mistakenly called inukshuks all over the world.  


An “inukshuk” but really a inunnguaq in Hiroshima Japan donated by a variety of Canadian groups as a landmark for peace.


A Inunnguaq labeled as an inuksuk in the Canadian Embassy in Washington DC

Other posts……….

Build Your Own

Making Wishes in Sedona

Getting Nostalgic and Just a Little Sad

Leave a comment

Filed under Art, WInnipeg Art Gallery

What Is It?

I am getting ready to do an Inuit tour at the Winnipeg Art Gallery for a group of alumni from an American University.  I plan to show them some of the Inuit artifacts we have at the gallery and connect them to some artwork we have had on view at the Winnipeg Art Gallery in the past. 


Item: Bird Hunting Weapon (bolo)

Material: sinew and bone

UseThis weapon is thrown at flying birds. The weighted cords spin and open wide to entangle the bird.

In this print by Elisapee Ishulutaq you can see bird hunters capturing prey. 

Item: Jigger

Material: antlers, braided sinew, nail

Use:ice fishing

In this wall hanging by Martha Kakee we see Inuit fishermen at work.

Item: ulu- a woman’s knife

Material: steel and antler

Use: skinning and cleaning animals, cutting hair, cutting food, cutting sinew for sewingIn this pen and colored pencil drawing by Tabea Murphy you can see the ulu on the table of the kamik maker. 

Item: Item: snow goggles

Material: antler and caribou sinew

Use: protect eyes from sun and snow glare

If you look closely you can see a person wearing snow goggles in this Brazilian soapstone sculpture by Abraham Ruben called Spirits of the Great Hunt.

Item: toy sled (qamutiik)

Material: antler, wood, string

Use: Children made toy sleds that were exact replicas of real sleds in order to practice the skill of sled building

You can see a qamutiik (sled) outside the door of the sealskin tent in this section of a mural by Elisapee Ishulutaq.In this pen and ink work called Sacrilege Jason Shiwak critiques colonialism and Christianity.  The man with the qamutiik (sled)  is trapped between a Christian missionary and a shaman transforming into a raven. 

I still need to find connecting artworks to a number of other artifacts to prepare for the tour.  Perhaps I will share them in a future post. 

Other posts……….

Inuit Art Isn’t Just Soapstone Carvings

Inuit Games

Looking Cool the Inuit Way


Leave a comment

Filed under Art, WInnipeg Art Gallery

Meet Priscilla

Drawing of Priscilla by British artist Harold Copping created for a book called Women of the Bible published in 1927.

One of the woman I talked about at a retreat last weekend was Priscilla whose story is told in the New Testament primarily in the book of Acts but also in 1 Corinthians, Romans and 2 Timothy.  Priscilla was educated, independent, brave and opinionated and some scholars make the case for her having written the book of Hebrews in the New Testament. A variety of artworks I found illuminate her life.

Greek Orthodox Church icon of Priscilla and Aquila. 

Priscilla was married to a man named Aquila and they had an unusual marriage of equality for their time. They lived initially in Rome.

Priscilla doing leatherwork in a painting by artist Elspeth Young.

Priscilla and Aquila settled in Corinth after being forced to leave Rome and they were leatherworkers and did tailoring of all kinds.  Priscilla was a skilled craftswoman.  

Print by J. Sadeler a Flemish artist in the 1600s.

Was Priscilla also a mother?  The Bible doesn’t give us any indication of that but many artists in their depictions of Priscilla and Aquila show them at work in their shop with several children underfoot.  

Painting from the Greek Orthodox tradition of Priscilla, Aquila and Paul

In Corinth Priscilla and Aquila met Paul who was a learned Jewish scholar and because Paul was also a leather worker they got to know one another and Priscilla and Aquila invited Paul to share their home with them. Later Paul also lived with them in Ephesus and the church in that city met in Priscilla’s hospitable home. 

This 2017 cartoon illustration of a traveling Priscilla and Aquila is from The Gospel Project for Kids a curriculum developed by the Spring Creek Fellowship Church in Big Springs Texas.

Priscilla and Aquila were travelers. The Bible doesn’t tell us whether they had converted to Christianity before they met Paul or if they did so because of their relationship with him but they accompany him on many of his journeys.  It took courage and daring to be a traveler in the time Priscilla lived- it was not for the faint of heart. 

Pen and ink drawing of Priscilla by Houston artist Sarah Beth Baca who references Priscilla saving Paul’s life in the lettering around the edge of the dream catcher behind Priscilla’s face.

Priscilla was obviously a great friend to Paul – he even had a nickname for her Prisca and in Acts 19 he thanks her for saving his life.

Priscilla and Aquila talk with Appolos in this 1889 black and white illustration from a book called The Bible in Picture and Story

Priscilla was not afraid to give advice to men.  In Acts 18 she is listening to the evangelist Apollos speak and when he is done she takes him aside to give him some tips on how….. as the bible puts it “he might have expounded on the way of God more perfectly.”

This image of a woman writer from an ancient Roman fresco makes me think of Priscilla the writer.

But the role that many think Priscilla had which I find most fascinating is that of writer.  There are numerous scholars who argue Priscilla was the actual author of the book of Hebrews. They contend that her close relationship with Paul made her uniquely qualified to write Hebrews and because of the anti- female bias of some Judeo- Christian groups she wrote the epistle anonymously.  

I was also intrigued to find an academic journal called The Priscilla Papers that has been published four times a year since 1987 and contains the work of theologians and Biblical scholars who wish to advance the idea of true equality for women in the evangelical Christian church.

Priscilla is portrayed with Paul and Apollos and her husband Aquila in a colourful and intricate 2013 painting by Silvia Dimitrova a Bulgarian icon artist living in England.

Priscilla left her mark on history with her colourful and multi-faceted life during which she had roles as a student, daughter, wife, friend, possibly mother, traveler, hostess, craftswoman, church leader and writer.

Preparing to speak about her at the retreat and finding artwork about her was a learning experience I enjoyed very much. 

Other posts…….

Mary’s Childhood

Introducing Kids to Abigail

Doc Schroeder

Leave a comment

Filed under Art, Religion