Category Archives: Art

Art That is a Bit Strange

In October when I was at the Art Gallery of Victoria I saw this piece that I thought was odd.

The figurine is from the famous Delft China company in Holland. The piece is called a table amusement. It is titled Woman on Chamber Pot. You put two fingers through the holes to look like a woman’s legs. It is from the mid-1700s.

Woman on Chamber Pot made me think of other strange pieces of art I’ve seen in a variety of locations.

Rooster Chicken or Gallo Gallina by Virginia Ayla -Merida Art Gallery

We saw this rather bizarre artwork in Mexico. A hand is holding a chicken’s foot. Is someone getting ready to eat it?

In 2017 a giant artwork called The Vessel by David Altmejd was on display at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. In a lecture about the piece, a curator reminded us that sometimes the purpose of art is to perplex and confuse. The Vessel with its spools of thread, cages of insects, molded hands, endless thread-like strings, and mythical-looking creatures certainly achieved that purpose.

White Aphrodisiac Telephone by Salvador Dali 1936

We saw this bizarre telephone in Lisbon’s Museu Coleção Berardo.

This chair adorned with bison horns was at the Seven Oaks Museum in Winnipeg. It would not be my first choice of seating.

Artist Aimee Bonham has created a chalk drawing that makes it look like you are standing on top of a giant rock arch

In a parking lot in St. George Utah, I actually got to be a part of a very unique artwork.

Three Ball 50/50 Tank by Jeff by Jeff Koons

We stood and pondered this odd installation at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. My husband is an avid basketball fan but this display was not something either of us could easily interpret.

Flying Pig mobile in the Mellow Mushroom in Asheville

We were visiting friends in North Carolina and stopped for lunch at a restaurant that had this strange artwork dangling from the ceiling.

Shuttlecocks by Oldenberg and Van Bruggen

When we walked around the grounds outside the Nelson Atkins Museum in Kansas City we saw these giant badminton art pieces. Each is 18 feet tall and weighs 2.5 tons.

Baby in Utereo by Clemente Susini

We visited the Zoological Museum in Florence Italy. There you can see hundreds of anatomic waxes created by Clemente Susini in the 1600s to help medical students study the human body. They include 38 models showing how a baby develops in a mother’s uterus during each stage of pregnancy.

I often blog about the interesting pieces of art I’ve had the privilege to view on my visits to galleries around the world. Seeing Woman on Chamber Pot at the Art Gallery of Victoria reminded me that some of that art has not only been interesting but very, very strange.

Other posts………..

A Bizarre Museum in Florence Italy

Cool Stuff Outside the Art Gallery

Are You Confused Yet?

A Perfect Last Day in Utah

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Water Song- What Do You See?

Water Song by Christi Belcourt- photographed at the Winnipeg Art Gallery

This morning I am giving my first tour at the Winnipeg Art Gallery since the pandemic began and I will certainly spend time focusing on this stunning artwork by Michif (Metis) visual artist Christi Belcourt. Her family is originally from the Metis community of Manitou Sakhigan (Lac Ste. Anne) Alberta.

Using hundreds of thousands of tiny painted dots the artist has tried to recreate the look of the beadwork of her Metis ancestors. This piece called Water Song is a perfect fit for the current exhibit at the Winnipeg Art Gallery- NaadohbiiTo Draw Water.

Water Song is on loan from the National Gallery in Ottawa.

Christi Belcourt’s colorful canvas fairly bursts with deep scarlet reds, royal rich blues, eye-popping yellows, and a myriad of green shades from dark and lush to verdant and bright. She invites us to closely examine plants and animals and insects who all depend on water in some way and to think about how all these living things are interconnected.

You can spot downy woodpeckers, warblers, barn owls, northern flickers, and nuthatches perched on plants and leaves.

Check out all the marvelous details you can see here. The warbler bursting into song at the top of the section, the pinecones just beneath her, the spider webs down and to the left of the pinecones, and the chokecherries over in the right-hand bottom corner. Can you find the maple leaves, the thistles, and the bursting flying seed pods?

I think gallery visitors of all ages will have a great time looking for monarch butterflies, wild roses, maple and oak leaves, trilliums, milkweed plants and fireflies.

Although not perfectly symmetrical one can almost draw a line of symmetry down the center of the canvas because creatures and plants that appear on one side of the work are usually mirrored on the other side.

This is only one of a myriad of canvases in the same style by Christi Belcourt that are displayed in public places across Canada. You can see more of them on her website.

I can hardly wait to see what my tour participants will find interesting about this fantastic art piece this morning.

Other posts………

Mural on the Hudson’s Bay Store Window Made By A 90 Year old Woman

I Loved The Governor General’s Dress

Good-bye Pitaloosie

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Such Talented Women

I knew it was puzzle time a week ago. Trying to catch up with speaking engagements, writing assignments, volunteer commitments, and other tasks put on hold during our October trip to British Columbia had left me a little frazzled and I needed the calm of a puzzle to retreat to.

I had picked up this puzzle featuring women artists at McNally’s several months ago. It was perfect. Easy to do, bright and colorful, and full of talented creators- some of whom I knew well and others who I am now itching to learn more about. I loved that the artists the puzzle featured were so diverse. They came from so many different places and specialized in different genres of artwork.

I had learned a great deal about Georgia O Keeffe on our trip to Hawaii because the American artist spent some time there. I had seen Frida Kahlo’s work everywhere during our two-month stay in Mexico and had posed with a likeness of her on a trip to Chicago.

I had become familiar with the work of Amrita Sher Gil when we had an exhibit at the Winnipeg Art Gallery called Vision Exchange- Perspectives from India to Canada and learned about the Hopi artist Nampeyo when we lived in Arizona for a year.

Work by Mary Cassatt was featured in the French Moderns exhibit at the Winnipeg Art Gallery in the summer of 2018 and I gave so many tours of that exhibit. I had taught my high school journalism students about Dorothea Lange during our journalistic photography unit.

But quite a number of the artists on the puzzle were new to me.

I went online and checked out the stunning portraits by painter Elisabeth Le Brun and sculptor Mary Lewis.

I think it would be fun to work alongside kids to make artwork inspired by Yayoi Kusama or Alma Thomas.

I’d love to own a piece of furniture designed by Ray Eames or visit one of the many buildings around the world designed by architect Zaha Hadid.

I started this puzzle on Monday and finished it on Friday night just on time to clear it off my diningroom table to host my first Christmas party. I am grateful for the way Rachel Ignotofsky’s puzzle provided an interesting oasis of calm in my otherwise busy week and introduced me to some new artists.

Other posts……..

Paint By Number

Puzzling Jane Austen

Globe Trotting Vicariously

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Embroidery

When we toured artist Emily Carr’s house in Victoria we saw these gorgeous heirloom fire screens that had been embroidered by Emily’s mother.

I have an heirloom piece of embroidery as well from my grandmother Margareta Sawatsky Peters. (1900-1999) I keep it on my bedroom dresser to remind me of her.

I was usually at my grandparents’ home in Gnadenthal Manitoba with my siblings or my thirteen cousins but occasionally I went there all by myself and have distinct memories of my grandmother teaching me to embroider on those visits.

I just ordered myself an embroidery kit for beginners online. Inspired by Emily Carr’s mother and my grandmother I’m going to reintroduce myself to this art form which I tried in childhood.

Other posts……..

Stitching a Story

All Those Doilies

Stitched with Love

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A Story of Sexual Blackmail From the Old Testament

Susanna and the Elders by Peruvian artist Ivan Fernandez- Davila

Susanna is a Biblical character you may not have heard about because she is introduced in a chapter of the Book of Daniel that has been removed from many versions of the Old Testament. The story appears in Greek translations of the Bible. Susanna stood up to a pair of men in authority who were threatening to sexually blackmail her.

Susanna and the Elders by African American artist Robert Colescott- 1980

Susanna was a wife, mother, and daughter well thought of in her community. She had a secluded garden spot in her back yard where she took a bath each day with her maids in attendance.  Two church elders began to spy on her regularly. One day when her maids went into the house on an errand, the elders came out of hiding and confronted Susanna. They told her either she had to have sex with both of them or they would publicly accuse her of having done so.

Susanna and the Elders by Israeli artist Alexander Gurevich

The elders thought they had Susanna backed into a corner but she didn’t give in to their demand and refused to have sex with them. The religious men carried through on their threat and falsely and publicly accused her of infidelity. Susanna was brought to court. She insisted on telling the truth about what had happened. No one believed her and she was led away to be stoned to death for committing adultery.

The Judgement of Daniel or the Innocence of Susanna by Valentin de Boulogne1630s

Then Daniel, a young lawyer at the time, came forward to defend her and by questioning the elders exposed the inconsistencies in their individual versions of events. Susanna was set free and her accusers were brought to justice for misusing the power of their position.

Alfred Hitchcock explains the use of a Susanna and the Elders painting in his movie Psycho

I first discovered Susanna’s story while doing a film study of Alfred Hitchcock’s movie Psycho with my high school literature students. A painting depicting the Susanna story plays an important role in the film. Norman, the villain of the movie, is spying on a woman taking a shower. He looks at her through a peep-hole in the wall that he exposes by moving a Franz van Miris painting of Susanna.  Like the elders in the Biblical story, Norman is spying on a woman bathing.

When Dave and I were touring a former spa in Rotorua New Zealand I took this photograph of a statue of Susanna created by Australian artist, Charles Summers. Given the fact that Susanna is bathing in the Biblical story, she was a fitting choice as a subject for a statue in a bathhouse. 

Susanna and the Elders by Lorenzo Lotto- 1517

Visiting Florence, Italy I found out just how popular the Susanna story was in the Renaissance. In the famed Uffizi art gallery, we saw three different paintings of her by artists Lorenzo Lotto, Giovanni Piazzetta, and Cristofano Allori.  When Dave and I visited the Städel Gallery in Frankfurt Germany we saw another painting of Susanna by Massimo Stanzione.

Susanna and the Elders by Marc Chagall-1912
Susanna and the Elders by the photographic Ukrainian artist Irene Caesar-2015

If you search online you will find literally hundreds of depictions of Susanna done by artists from around the world over the last six centuries. It demonstrates the way her story has left an indelible impression.

Walking through the Pitti Palace, in Florence Italy, I took a picture of a sculpture of Susanna by Odoardo Fantacchiotti. I didn’t realize till I loaded the photo onto my computer that the statue is situated in front of a mirror. An image of me taking the photo was reflected there.  Seeing myself in the picture of Susanna’s statue made me wonder whether I’d have had her courage and resolve.

Other posts……….

Silent Prey

The Daughters of Zelophehad

Meet Priscilla

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Resilience

Bald Eagle – by Robert Bateman-2010- Photographed at The Bateman Gallery in Victoria

What has helped to make you resilient during the pandemic? Think about it. Draw it. Share it.

Those were the instructions for an interesting activity I participated in at The Bateman Gallery in Victoria. The gallery displays the masterpieces of renowned Canadian artist Robert Bateman but also highlights the work done by the Bateman Foundation. The Foundation is funded by proceeds from Robert Bateman’s art sales. It sponsors art therapy programming for children and adults. In the art therapy room at the gallery, visitors were invited to take part in a community art activity.

The portrait wall at The Bateman Gallery.

We were asked to create a self-portrait and write about the things that had kept us resilient during the pandemic. Then we were invited to illustrate a mask with pictures of those things.

I said my writing, the ability to learn new things, and the love of my family and friends helped me stay resilient during the pandemic.

I drew my four grandchildren and a copy of my novel Lost on the Prairie on my mask to illustrate my sources of resilience.

If you are interested in trying this activity you can download it on the Bateman Gallery website.

Peregrine and Wave by Robert Bateman-2009- Photographed at the Bateman Gallery in Victoria

“Resilience is based on compassion for ourselves as well as compassion for others.”
― Sharon Salzberg

Other posts………

Oh What Fun

Getting Involved At the Human Rights Museum

The World Would Be A Better Place If Everyone Was A Birdwatcher

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Filed under Art, COVID-19 Diary, Western Canada Travels

It’s All About Emily

One of the reasons I was excited about visiting Victoria was because I knew it was the home of artist Emily Carr. I am a big fan of hers and have taught many different ages of children about Emily both in my school classrooms and at the Winnipeg Art Gallery when I worked there as a guide before the pandemic.

There is a statue of Emily Carr at the heart of the city of Victoria. Created by artist Barbara Patterson in 2010 it is called Our Emily. The accompanying plaque recognizes Emily Carr as British Columbia’s most famous artist.

One place you can learn about Emily is the Victoria Art Gallery. Their current exhibit about her is called Seeing and Being Seen. You can look at Emily Carr’s work and then look at the work other artists had done about her or did because they were inspired by her.

BC Forest by Emily Carr -1939 and The Hornby Suite Homage to Emily Carr- 1971 Jack Shadbolt

One of the items in the exhibit was this porcelain version of Emily Carr’s childhood home.

Emily Carr’s House by Valerie Pugh – 1981

Later we visited Emily Carr’s childhood home which is now a museum.

It is on Government Street but as this sign tells us when Emily lived there as a child the street was named after her family because their home was probably the only one on it in 1863 when it was built.

This plaque at Carr House shows Emily with her sisters

Although Emily studied art in Europe and spent some time living in San Francisco she often came back to the house in Victoria which her older sister Edith inherited after their father died.

Emily in the yard of her home on Simcoe Street. She raised sheepdogs, took in boarders and had all kinds of pets including a monkey named Woo. She chronicles that period of her life in her book The House of All Sorts.

Eventually, Emily would own a boarding house nearby on Simcoe Street but she gave art lessons in her childhood home.

Pascale our guide at Carr House talks about the work Emily did when she spent time in Indigenous communities near Ucluelet and on Haida Gwaii.

I have read Emily’s books, which made her famous before her art did, and I have studied her biography fairly thoroughly for the lessons and tours I have given about her. So it was really interesting to discuss various questions about her personal life and art with our guide at Carr House, a history graduate named Pascale. We talked about the way Emily shunned convention, her individualism and eccentricities, and her paintings of the villages of the Indigenous people of BC which some say are controversial since Emily wasn’t Indigenous.

Emily’s friends visit her at her caravan which she dubbed Elephant. She often took this travelling art studio out in the woods when she was painting the Pacific Northwest landscape.

We talked about Emily’s personal life, the way she shunned marriage in order to concentrate on her art, her group of female friends and the way her family discouraged her art. They thought it worthless and sometimes threw away the artwork she made for them as gifts. We speculated how they would react now when Emily’s paintings are selling for over 3 million dollars.

An exhibit in Carr House explains how the house became a restored Heritage Home in Victoria.

From Pascale I learned how Member of Parliament David Groos bought the Carr house in 1964, mortgaging his own home to do so, much to the consternation of his wife. Eventually, the Government of British Columbia bought the home from Mr Groos.

Just after we left the house we walked by the James Bay Inn where Emily died on March 3, 1945. At the time the inn was St. Mary’s Priory, a convalescent nursing home.

There are other things I could do and sites I could visit in Victoria and on Vancouver Island that would help me learn more about Emily’s life and legacy but I will have to save those for a second visit. Emily was such a complex and interesting person that there will always be new things to learn about her.

Other posts………

Talk About Defying Convention

Imitating Emily

Old Sun and Emily Carr

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The World Would Be A Better Place If Everyone Was A Birdwatcher

Chief by Robert Bateman- photographed at The Bateman Gallery Victoria

Does this painting of a bison make you think of a logging truck barreling down the road creating clouds of dust and then swerving suddenly towards YOU? That’s what Robert Bateman was envisioning when he painted it.

Everglades by Robert Bateman -photographed at The Bateman Gallery in Victoria

Does this painting of eight different kinds of water birds conjure up images of ballet dancers on stage getting ready to perform Swan Lake? That’s what Robert Bateman was thinking of when he painted it.

My friend Esther encouraged me to visit The Bateman Gallery in Victoria and I am so glad she recommended it. My curiosity about Robert Bateman had also been piqued by writer Margriet Ruurs who was the keynote speaker at a children’s writing conference I attended. Both Margriet and Robert Bateman live on Saltspring Island and Margriet has written a book for children about Robert and his art.

Lake Sasajewun – Algonquin Provincial Park- Robert Bateman 1948- Photographed at The Bateman Gallery Victoria

At The Bateman Gallery, I learned Robert was once a more impressionistic kind of painter like the Group of Seven but decided at one point he could either become part of the elite and more academic art world or paint what his heart told him he really wanted to paint and that was realistic renditions of the natural world. For many years before he was a full-time artist, Robert was a teacher helping kids learn to appreciate the beauty and wonder of nature.

Robert Bateman Self Portrait – Photographed at The Bateman Gallery Victoria

It was interesting to discover that Robert takes some 50 or more photos of things he wants to paint. And it was also interesting to hear him talk on videos about what inspires his ideas for certain paintings.

Red-Winged Blackbirds and Rail Fence by Robert Bateman -photographed at The Bateman Gallery in Victoria

Does this painting of two red-winged blackbirds bring to mind a pair of Japanese samurai warriors ready for battle? Robert Bateman was inspired by that idea as he created this masterpiece.

Cardinal and Sumac by Robert Bateman- photographed at The Bateman Gallery Victoria

Once on a visit to The Smithsonian, Robert saw a man in a red turban walk past a red wall and that made him decide to do a painting of the reddest bird and the reddest tree he could think of.

The Birdwatcher by Robert Bateman -photographed at The Bateman Gallery in Victoria

Robert Bateman has said that “The world would be a better place if everyone was a birdwatcher.” He thinks it is vital for every person to have an informed and intimate relationship with nature. In a video we watched at the gallery, he talked about how important it is to get out into nature to give ourselves a sense of place in the natural world. He thinks nature can work a kind of magic on people. His artwork is proof that it can.

Other posts……..

Cataloguing History One Face At A Time

Lessons From Birds

Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Bison

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Yoko Ono Makes You Do All The Work

Yoko Ono instructs gallery visitors to hammer a nail into a canvas to help create a piece of art
Here’s what the art piece looked like after I added my nail

We hammered nails, wrote messages, glued china, and tied wishes to trees. When we visited the Vancouver Art Gallery last week we saw an exhibit called The Instructions of Yoko Ono. And that’s exactly what we saw. Instructions. Essentially we read the instructions and followed them to create artwork. It was a unique way of experiencing art- art that required us to work and changed with each participant.

This installation was called My Mommy is Beautiful. Gallery visitors were instructed to write something about their Moms.

I followed Yoko Ono’s instructions and wrote a message for my mother.

In an artwork called Mend Piece you selected bits of broken china and put them together with glue and string. Then you placed your piece on long rows of shelves with the creations others had made.

This is my finished piece on the shelf where it was displayed near this poem by Yoko Ono.

At the installation titled Wish Tree, you were instructed to write a wish for someone you love on a tag and tie it to a tree. Here Dave ties our wishes together on the tree.

There were lots of other interesting participatory displays.

Dave climbed a ladder to look at himself in a mirror on the ceiling with a magnifying glass.

Here I select what I want to learn about the famous peace sit-in Yoko Ono and John Lennon staged in a Montreal hotel in 1969 by deciding which locker doors I will open. Each locker unit contained different pieces of information about the sit-in.

Here I put an Imagine Peace stamp on a map of Canada.

There were several exhibits we did not participate in.

Like this one where we were invited to put on a black sack and take off all of our clothes inside.

Or this one where we could take a photo of our eyes and write about a time we had been abused physically or emotionally.

You could play chess on a board where all the movers and all the squares were white

The Yoko Ono exhibit was unique because almost every piece on display was created by, or involved the viewer. I am not sure if it is my favourite kind of art but it was certainly interesting and engaging.

Other posts…………

A Bizarre Museum in Florence

Canmore’s Big Head

A Giant Baby and a Tiny Woman

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Filed under Art, Western Canada Travels

What’s That Big Head Doing in Downtown Canmore?

Yes, that is my husband Dave trying to stick his finger up the nose of a big statue of a head in downtown Canmore.

I had noticed the statue on a walk through Canmore the day before and was so curious about it. I asked Dave and my niece Olivia to return to take more photos. They were happy to oblige.

The head appears to be deep in thought and is partially buried in the ground. The sculpture was made in 2008 by Alberta artist, Alan Henderson.

He was commissioned by the town of Canmore for the project. Canmore is named after a place called Ceannmore in Scotland. In Gaelic Ceannmore means ‘big head.’

The sculpture weighs nine tons and was carved from blue granite with the assistance of Chinese craftspeople. The artist used the head of a friend as a model.

It looks like some graffiti artists once added additional images to the sculpture which were cleaned off.

Apparently in winter, the locals dress it up in a huge toque, in summer in giant sunglasses, and kids from the local high school have been known to put a mortarboard on its head on graduation night. The head has become a kind of signature art piece for the city.

My hometown of Steinbach has a giant car.

The town of Altona, Manitoba has a giant Van Gogh painting of sunflowers.

Canmore, British Columbia has a giant head.

Other posts………

A Head Trio

A Chair For You and Me

Cool Stuff Outside the Art Gallery

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Filed under Art, Western Canada Travels