Category Archives: Art

A Very Personal Story

Isn’t she incredibly lovely?  This is my favorite image in the Pitaloosie Saila exhibit currently on display at the Winnipeg Art Gallery.  The self-portrait shows the artist as a young woman.  Although in reality her face is not tattooed, in this image she has portrayed herself with tattoos in the South Baffin Island style.  Pitaloosie remembers her aunts having tattoos like this.  Pitaloosie has put her portrait on a ulu, a traditional Inuit woman’s knife.  Pitaloosie has a personal collection of ulus of many different kinds. Pitaloosie Saila is 75 years old and has been drawing and making prints since the 1960s.  The exhibit currently at the Winnipeg Art Gallery provides a wonderful retrospective of her work over the years.  What I like so much is that it gives us a glimpse into Pitaloosie’s personal life. 

She has made a lithograph of her grandmother dancing a reel on one of the whaling ships that came into port in Cape Dorset.
In this lithograph we see four generations of Pitaloosie’s family.  On the far right is her great-grandmother chewing a seal skin to soften it.  In the middle is Pitaloosie’s grandmother with a more modern hairstyle and clothing.  On the far left is Pitaloosie’s mother.  She died when Pitaloosie was only two years old so the artist never really got to know her mother but she has dressed her in an even more modern way than the other two women. Could that be little Pitaloosie in the amauti in her mother’s parka? 

Pitaloosie Saila answers questions at the Winnipeg Art Gallery on October 28

Pitaloosie was in Winnipeg for the opening of her exhibit and she told us stories about the various pieces on display. 

In this stonecut Pitaloosie is playing with her wooden dolls.  They were made for her by her father and uncles. The dolls had heads and bodies and legs but no arms. Pitaloosie cherished her dolls and she made clothes for them which helped her to learn sewing skills. 

Pitaloosie and Aqsatunnguaq 

There is a sad story behind this gorgeous watercolor of Pitaloosie and her sister. As a child Pitaloosie was sent south to hospitals for seven years because of a back injury and complications from tuberculosis.  While she was gone her dear sister Aqsatunnguaq died.  Pitaloosie didn’t find out till she returned home to Cape Dorset. 

Arctic Madonna by Pitaloosie Saila

Pitaloosie said her artwork is a way to leave parts of her heritage to her children and grandchildren.  Her artwork also provides a beautiful glimpse into her personal life for the many people who love and admire her work. 

Other posts……..

The Globalization of Art From Japan to Cape Dorset

Inuit Fashion Show

Inuit Games

Another Shameful Chapter in Canada’s History


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Cooking For Picasso

cooking for picassoI just finished reading Cooking for Picasso by Camilee Aubray.   I wouldn’t give it a thumbs up.  Yes the descriptions of food and food preparation are tantalizing and seductive. And it is intriguing to read about the beautiful young French woman Odine who in 1936 could have been the subject of one of Picasso’s famous artworks Woman With A Watch. 

woman with a watch picasso 1936

Woman with a Watch by Picasso 1936

But my loathing for the way Picasso treated the women in his life wasn’t mitigated at all as Celine the modern- day narrator of Cooking for Picasso tells us how she discovers her grandmother Odine not only cooked for Picasso but also had an affair with him.  Celine finds out Picasso is her grandfather.  Although that means she inherits one of his paintings and a great deal of money, it also means she inherits the knowledge that she is the descendant of a man who considered himself ‘a beast’ in his relationships with women, a man who said he liked his women to be “submissive and shorter than he was.” 

still life by picasso page84

Still Life with a Pitcher by Picasso another Picasso painting featured in Cooking For Picasso

As I read the book I thought about how maybe even a year ago I would have liked it  more.  But last summer as I did research for the tours I gave of the Picasso exhibit at the Winnipeg Art Gallery I learned  just how misogynistic Picasso was and what toxic relationships he had with women. That changed my view of his art completely. 

I also read Cooking for Picasso just when the news was filled with stories about famous men being taken to task for inappropriate sexual behavior.  Picasso would never have survived such scrutiny. 

So while Cooking for Picasso is about two things I love- food and art it is not a book I would recommend. 

Other posts……….

Picasso -Not Really A Family Man

Picasso’s Grandmother is Canadian

A Slightly Tipsy Bullfighter


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Are You Confused Yet?

the vessel david altmejd“The whole point of art is to perplex and confound.”  Andrew Kear the chief curator at the Winnipeg Art Gallery is describing David Altmejd’s ideas about art.  Altmejd’s huge detailed work The Vessel is currently on display at the Winnipeg Art Gallery and it certainly does perplex and confound.  There is no easy explanation for what it is all about.  Yes the piece does appear to be a kind of vessel as its name suggests, a vessel filled with a multitude of the most interesting things.  We see parts of bodies…

hands moulding the vessel david altmejdHands moulding and shaping things

ears the vessel david altmejdEars

noses david altmejdNoses

bees david altmejdThere are containers filled with insects and…………………

swan the vessel david altmejdGiant shapes that look like swans or musical instruments and ………………

spools of thread david altmejdyou see spools of thread tongue depressers david altmejd the vesseland large wooden pieces kind of like wings of some sortthe vessel by david altmejdAndrew Kear  says David Altmejd likes to see what the unintended will bring to art. He likes to discover what accidents will happen as he constructs an art piece.  That makes for the creation of art that definitely makes you think and ask questions and use your imagination.  I can hardly wait to show The Vessel to kids.  I know they will find all kinds of things in this artwork I haven’t discovered yet. 

Other posts………..

The Beginning and End of Life

Art in Bloom

Are You Sure They Aren’t Photographs


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Why Did You Say That?

At the beginning of each tour we give at the Winnipeg Art Gallery we provide this welcome.

” We acknowledge the Winnipeg Art Gallery in located on Treaty One land, the traditional territory of the Anishinaabe, Cree, Dene, Dakota and Oji-Cree Nations and the homeland of the Métis.”  

Treaty One by artist Robert Houle

At the beginning of November I gave a drop- in guided tour to about twenty five gallery visitors and after the tour was over one woman stayed back to ask me a question.  She was from a small rural community some distance from Winnipeg.  “I was just wondering,”  she said, “why you made the statement you did at the beginning of the tour.”

The Delegate- Portage and Main by indigenous artist Jeffrey M. Thomas

 I said that kind of acknowledgement was now common place at many Winnipeg venues.  I told her I’d heard similar statements before concerts at the Centennial Concert Hall, at Winnipeg Jets games at the MTS Centre, at plays at the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre, before morning announcements at public schools I visit and that in my church such an acknowledgment was either announced or printed in our church bulletin each week. She seemed surprised to hear this. 

Treaty Map of Canada

I told the woman indigenous people had lived on the land where the art gallery stands for thousands of years, long before settlers from other parts of the world came to Canada.  I explained the importance of respecting that and recognizing that although treaties regarding land use were negotiated with indigenous groups their understanding and the settlers’ understanding of those treaties was very different. I said acknowledging the original inhabitants of the land was a way to work towards a more respectful relationship with indigenous Canadians and to actively pursue a path of reconciliation.  

Treaty medal on display at the Glenbow Museum

The woman thanked me for my explanation.  She said she had learned something new.  I had too because I’d really had to think about how I could best answer her question.  And maybe that’s exactly why we acknowledge our presence on Treaty One land before every tour at the Winnipeg Art Gallery………… because it makes us all take a moment and think about something really important. 

Other posts……..

Gone But Not Forgotten

Ojibwa in Paris

Build Your Own

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Inside a Language Womb

“The room is dark and in the middle are three walls in a triangle, painted black and covered in foam. Stepping in and standing in the centre of the triangle you’re immediately surrounded by a loud rhythmic sound, like a heartbeat or the rush of blood through veins. Then the voice of a woman speaks Anishinaabemowin an Ojibway language. It’s both beautiful and overwhelming.”

That’s the way CBC personality Rosana Deerchild who hosts the popular radio show Unreserved describes a piece of sound art in the Insurgence/Resurgence exhibit at the Winnipeg Art Gallery.  She calls Scott Benesiinaabandan’s work a language womb

I like to use that description too when I lead gallery visitors into the dark interior of the exhibit.  I invite them to imagine they are in a womb listening to a mother’s heart beating, her blood rushing and her soothing voice almost like a lullaby telling her baby the story of her family and her people.  Kids especially like being inside Scott Benesiinaabandan’s untitled art installation.  It is just a little bit scary at first because it is dark and so they are excited.  Then their eyes adjust to the darkness.  They start listening to the woman’s soothing voice and are lulled by the rhythmic ‘heart beats’ in the background. Invariably they grow comfortable, quiet and calm and don’t want to leave the exhibit.   

Scott Benesiinaabandan is a University of Winnipeg graduate and an emerging Anishinabe artist based in Montreal. His piece in the current Insurgence/Resurgence exhibit at the Winnipeg Art Gallery is one of my favorites. 

Other posts…………


Zip Ties and The Three Little Pigs

This Looks Familiar

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Don’t Be Scared to be Creative

To live a creative life we must lose our fear of being wrong. – Joseph Chilton Pearce

That’s something I need to keep telling myself. It’s something we need to keep telling each other. It is especially something we need to keep telling our children.  So often we hamper creativity or put a stop to it all together because we expect too much of ourselves and too much of others.  We need to remember……….You don’t have to be a professional photographer to love taking  pictures.You don’t have to be an art critic or art history student to enjoy art and learn as much as you can about it.

You don’t have to be a trained musician to have a good time singing or playing an instrument.   

You don’t have to be an art school graduate to have lots of fun creating artwork. 

You don’t need extensive theatre experience to act in a play and have a great time with your fellow actors and audience. You needn’t have attended journalism school to write a book or a story or a blog post that others can enjoy reading. 

You don’t have to be a top chef to make some really creative dishes.

In her book Big Magic Elisabeth Gilbert lists twenty five fears people have about being more creative.  Everything from a fear of being ridiculed, undisciplined, untrained, or embarrassed.  And I would add…….. a fear of being wrong. 

It’s a hard fear to overcome and I struggle with it mightily.  But we need to get over it!

Other posts……….

When Did You Stop Drawing? 

Dave Driedger Nature Photographer

Siloam Mission At the Winnipeg Art Gallery


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Everyone’s A Winner

I attended the Arts Junktion fundraiser last Friday night.  We are annual patrons of the event.  In case you don’t know Arts Junktion does wonderful work by redistributing reusable stuff to community artists.  Businesses donate materials to Arts Junktion that might otherwise be headed for landfills and the ArtsJunktion volunteers organize the materials and make them available free of charge to teachers, early childhood educators, crafters, community organizations and the general public. Arts Junktion also hosts workshops led by artists to educate people on how to use the materials available for various art projects. It’s a win/win experience for everyone involved. 

Regular features of the annual fundraiser night at the Kings Head Pub are a 50/50 draw, a silent auction and a raffle for a brand new bicycle donated by the Les Wiens Investors Group.  Last Friday Dave and I bought tickets for all the contests.  

At the end of the evening Allison Moore the new chair of the Arts Junktion board started pulling tickets for the silent auction winners.  Lo and behold my number was selected and I had won a collection of things including…….. a beautiful necklace, a gift certificate to a designer clothing shop and a print by local artist Craig Love.  I was excited! 

black and white with bikeThen came the draw for the bicycle.  Les Wiens who had donated the bike pulled the winning ticket.  He teased the audience a bit. The winner’s last name ends with ‘r’ he said and it starts with ‘D’ and the first initial is ‘M’. By then I was pretty sure I was the winner and by the time he read out my full name I was already half way up to the front to get my prize.  

I had a lovely chat with Les later and also with the owner of White Pine Bicycle Company where the bike was purchased.  He told me I was free to come in and trade my bike for another color or size anytime.  I don’t think that will be necessary. I’ve tested my bike already riding it up and down the long hallways in our condo and think it will be the perfect bike for me.  I did give my neighbor Stephanie a little scare when I zipped by her as she walked up from the elevator. 

Although I was a big winner at the Arts Junktion fundraiser this year everyone who goes is really a big winner because they are all contributing to a great cause that promotes artistic expression and environmental responsibility for everyone in the community.  

Other posts. …….

Tin Can Art and Feeding the Homeless




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