Category Archives: Art

A Different Kind of Table

Is that a picnic table behind me? It is but…….. it is also a work of art called Table of Contents.

Viewed from this angle the table could be a sculpture but one lying down instead of in an upright position as most sculpture are

Located in Winnipeg’s Vimy Ridge Park just off of Portage Avenue the long steel table pays tribute to the people of the surrounding Wolseley neighbourhood who are the primary users of the park.

The words Our Place or chez nous in French reflect the sense of community and belonging the artists were striving to convey as they designed Table of Contents.

There are words or quotes etched onto the table’s surface. They were submitted by folks who live nearby and are frequent users of the park. They were asked to comment on the importance of the park, its natural setting, or the history of the area.

These quotes talk about the natural elements of the park like the elm trees, mosquitoes, autumn leaves and the sky

There are many different languages used for the words on the table. This is indicative of the surrounding multi-cultural neighbourhood where Tagalog, Portuguese, French and English are spoken. Even Braille is represented. The words are etched on the table in a way that gives you something to read no matter which side of the table you are sitting on.

Messages promoting a positive community spirit are etched in various languages and in Braille

Designed by Eduardo Aquino, a University of Manitoba architecture professor who originally hails from Brazil and Karen Shanski who is a practising Winnipeg architect, the table/sculpture is located at a spot where many of the walking paths in Vimy Ridge Park converge. Aquino and Shanski refer to the words on the table they created as a ‘landscape of language.’ It was important to them that the people who used the table would recognize themselves in the words on its surface. They hoped the table would be a place for people to gather to talk with each other and listen to each other.

Architects Eduardo Aquino and Karen Shanski pose for a photo next to another project they designed on the Osborne Bridge. Photo by Boris Minkevich from the Winnipeg Free Press

I am in the park frequently these days on regular stroller rides with my granddaughter whose home is nearby and I have seen people eating, visiting, sleeping, reading, smoking, taking a break from cycling and playing chess at the table. From what I’ve observed the table is fulfilling the purpose it was designed for.

Neat poem on the far side… Trees sway, children play, Hurray! I wonder if it was written by a child? I also like the sentiments A Place of Happy Memories and Always Love Those Beside You

Other posts………

He Looks Kind

The Guess Who

Between Dog and Wolf


Filed under Art, Winnipeg

He Looks Kind

When I take my granddaughter for walks in her stroller we often make our way through Vimy Ridge Park near her home. There is a statue of a young man there that always attracts my attention. He is crouched down, his hand stretched out and he looks so concerned and kind.

Portrait of Andrew Mynarski by Paul Goronson

I found out the man is Andrew Mynarski the son of Polish immigrants to Canada. He grew up in Winnipeg and attended elementary school and high school here. Andrew joined the Canadian Airforce when he was 25. He had been working as a leather cutter since age 16 when his father died and he needed to help support his family- his mother and five siblings. He is described as a quiet man with a good sense of humour who enjoyed woodworking. He liked to design and build furniture.

Artist Charlie Johnston created the sculpture of Andrew Mynarski

On June 12 his airforce crew was setting out on their 13th mission over France when Andrew found a four leaf clover in the grass by their plane. He insisted on giving it to his good buddy Pat Brophy who was a rear gunner on his crew.

On the mission their plane was hit and the pilot ordered everyone to bail out. Andrew was just about to jump with his parachute when he noticed that his friend Pat was trapped in the back of the plane. Instantly he turned away from the plane door and crawled on his hands and knees through blazing hydraulic oil to help Pat. By the time he reached his friend his parachute and uniform were on fire.

Andrew grabbed an axe and tried to smash Pat free but it was hopeless. Pat kept telling him he should just jump and get out. Finally Andrew did. French villagers found Andrew but he was so badly burned from trying to save his friend Pat he died a few hours later.

Pat however survived. The explosion caused when the plane hit the ground blew Pat safely away from the wreckage and he was rescued. Later he told the story of how his friend Andrew had tried to save him and Andrew was awarded the Victoria Cross for his courage and kindness.

Andrew’s statue makes me think about what a horrible thing war is. That a caring brave young person like Andrew had to die is such a tragic loss. I think about the contributions a man of Andrew’s character could have made to his family and community had he lived. It makes me so sad.

When I push my granddaughter’s stroller by Andrew’s statue I always say a little prayer that she will never experience the tragedy and sorrow of a war.

Other posts……….

James Bond is From Winnipeg

Canada’s Women Soldiers

Wars Dread of Mothers


Filed under Art, Canada, History, Winnipeg

A Unique Meeting Place in A Winnipeg Park

“Would you mind if my wife took your photo?” I was too shy to ask but my husband wasn’t and that’s why I got this photo of some Winnipeg women enjoying a beautiful sunny Easter Sunday afternoon, visiting together.

They laughed and smiled when Dave said I wanted to take their photo and readily agreed.

Photo from the Winnipeg Arts Council

Dave and I went for a long cycle yesterday that took us to Maples Collegiate. Just behind the school is Adsum Park and a piece of public art called Close Commons. I had read about it and had been wanting to see it.

Artist Gurpreet Sehra with Close Commons- photo from the Winnipeg Free Press

Artist Gurpreet Sehra who designed and created Close Commons said she wanted it to be a place for dialogue and that is just what it was being used for when I saw it.

The art piece has large oak leaves made from aluminum. Gurpreet chose them because the bur oak is indigenous to Manitoba.

The bottom part of the piece is made from granite and is etched with floral motifs inspired by Islamic and Indian architecture and textiles.

Before she made the piece, Gurpreet took a survey of local residents using the three languages most commonly spoken in the area, English, Punjabi and Tagalog. Many people in the neighbourhood are immigrants from the Philippines or the Punjab area of India.

Gurpreet wanted the artwork to represent Manitoba so she chose the oak leaves and…………..

Photo from the Winnipeg Arts Council website

to represent the diverse immigrant communities in the province she did the granite etching with motifs from other countries and cultures. In Gurpreet’s piece the two come together beautifully.

When Gurpreet did her initial survey some of the women in the neighbourhood told her the wooden benches in the park at the time, were being used predominantly by men and they didn’t feel welcome there. The women wanted a beautiful and functional place where they could meet to talk. And as I saw yesterday that is exactly what they got!

Other posts…………

Indian Dinner

Warli Art- Kids Love It and You Will Too

Fifty Years of Folklorama

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Filed under Art, Winnipeg

Modeling Career-Different Perceptions

Can you, short of an earthquake hold a pose?  Are you willing to be centre stage for long periods of time? Are you comfortable having your body parts talked about? Can you be the object of intense scrutiny by a roomful of people for at least an hour?

I’ll never forget my first sitting as an art model. Before I took the job I did a little online research. One website suggested you consider the above questions seriously before becoming a model.

Many years ago the art teacher at the international school in Hong Kong where I worked, sent out an e-mail asking for volunteers to serve as a model for a drawing class. I was a little hesitant. Wasn’t I too old?

Then I read the story of Lala Lezli, a former dancer with the celebrated Martha Graham company, who modelled for California artists for fifty years. She was still working as a model when she died at age 92. I wasn’t too old to be a model.

I also found out art students need to learn to draw real people, not just the idealized human form. Models should be of all ages, races, shapes and sizes. Indeed when I hesitantly replied to the art teacher’s e-mail I was surprised by his warm response. He’d be happy to have me, model.

I asked if I should wear a special outfit, but the art teacher suggested I dress in a normal way. I’d read models should come prepared with interesting poses, but the art teacher had a pose in mind. He wanted me to sit on a chair on the elevated platform at the front of the room. He even arranged my feet and hands and told me which direction to turn my face.

 I walked into the class as the teacher was giving final instructions and was quickly seated so the students would have a maximum amount of time to work. It was surprisingly easy to sit still for an hour. I had a good view of the drawing tables and was fascinated by the progress being made on the dozen different images of me emerging on paper across the room.

It was interesting how each of the students perceived me in a slightly different way. No two sketches were the same. Just like in life, I thought. No two people perceive us in the same way and we have to accept and indeed appreciate that.

Other posts …….

Using the Other Side of My Brain

Paint By Number

My Husband is Famous


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Filed under Art, Education, Hong Kong, New Experiences

A Mural for a Mayor

Photo I took last year of the construction on the new Bill and Helen Norrie Library

The brand new Bill and Helen Norrie Library located right beside the Pan Am Pool in Winnipeg will open its doors to the public on March 29th. The library is named after Bill Norrie who served as our city’s mayor from 1979-1992 and his partner Helen Norrie, a former teacher and librarian. Helen has written a column about children’s books in the Winnipeg Free Press since 1978 and has been an avid supporter of children’s literature and literacy.

We stopped at the Bill Norrie mural yesterday while taking our granddaughter for a walk

There are other places in Winnipeg, besides the new library, where Bill and Helen’s contributions to the city are recognized. One is at the corner of Ellice and Langside, where a huge mural unveiled in September of 2013 tells the story of Bill Norrie’s life. He died in July of 2012.

Note the pen beside the photo of the mayor’s wife

Helen Norrie, whose photo is displayed prominently in the mural, said at the mural’s unveiling that she appreciated the way it pictured so many of the things her husband was passionate about and interested in.

For example, the mural includes a sculpture of northern aviator Tom Lamb by Winnipeg artist Leo Mol. Bill Norrie officially opened Mol’s sculpture garden in Assiniboine Park during his last year in office.

Note the photo of the Norrie family cottage and the bookends of the Manitoba Legislature

There is also a panda since Bill Norrie helped to bring the pandas to Winnipeg. 

A painting of the Manitoba landscape is behind the mayor and just above it is a snow globe containing the Golden Boy and a vintage photo of the Forks site

The mural was painted by local artists Michel Saint Hilaire and Mandy van Leeuwen and shows the former mayor sitting at his desk surrounded by items that were meaningful to him.

The artists have even included a likeness of Bill Norrie’s childhood home on Banning Street.

At the mural’s unveiling, the mayor at the time Sam Katz characterized Bill Norrie as a kind and gentle man who loved his community. University of Winnipeg President Dr Lloyd Axworthy also paid tribute to Norrie saying, “he never forgot his roots.” 

Helen Norrie observed, “Bill loved Winnipeg and this mural shows that.”

Other posts……….

Meeting Another Children’s Book Lover

A Prayer for the New Year

The Guess Who on the Wall


Filed under Art, Winnipeg

Paint By Number

My maternal grandmother Annie Jantz Schmidt

My grandmother Annie Schmidt was fond of doing paint by number projects. I can remember being fascinated as a child as I watched her work on them.

After I finished my last puzzle- a timeline of great art pieces, I was looking for something a little different to try that served the same function as a puzzle does for me. I needed something I could work on with my hands, that got my eyes away from screens and was calming and interesting.

My friend Marie told me she had completed a paint by number picture of Van Gogh’s Starry Night. That sounded like what I might be looking for, so I ordered one too. I found filling in the canvas a great stress reliever and an enjoyable project.

With Starry Night at the Museum of Modern Art

I have seen Van Gogh’s Starry Night in the Museum of Modern Art in New York

and I caught a glimpse of it again when we went to the Van Gogh show at the Convention Centre here in a Winnipeg in October where they projected a huge version of Starry Night onto a screen.

My version is quite different but it was a fun project to complete over the last week or so.

We are living in a time when we are confined to our homes a great deal and Van Gogh painted Starry Night during a time when he was confined to the building and grounds of a mental hospital where he was a patient. Painting brought him peace and equilibrium. Doing a paint by number version of his masterpiece brought me moments of peace and equilibrium as well.

Other posts………

Are All Artists Troubled?

Imagine Van Gogh. Thumbs Up or Down?

Advice From Nick Hornby

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Filed under Art, COVID-19 Diary

The Hands of A Basketball Player- Michelangelo’s David

michelangelos-david-wiki-art-public-domain“He’d a make a great basketball player. Look at those big hands.” That was my husband’s first comment as we walked up to the statue of Michelangelo’s David in the Academia Gallery in Florence, Italy. The white marble statue is 17 feet high and shows David ready to fight Goliath, the Philistine giant.

David’s hands do look big, but Michelangelo made them that way because initially David was created to stand outside a palace, rather than in an art gallery.  From up close you can see the veins in his hands. 

I’m standing by the sculpture of David in the Piazzale Michelangelo in Florence

Michelangelo thought people would be viewing David from far away. He wanted them to be able to see all the details of his statue, including David’s hands. Although some people think the 29-year-old Michelangelo made a mistake when he carved David’s large hands, experts agree their size was deliberate.

I took this photo of Michelangelo’s statue just outside the Uffizi Gallery

At age 24 Michelangelo began visiting morgues. He would cut up unclaimed corpses and study their anatomy. He was as well-trained as any physician in the body’s structure. He wouldn’t have made a mistake with David’s hands. He wanted them to be larger than life and powerful. From up close you can see the very veins in his hands. 

Two other artists had rejected the piece of marble Michelangelo used for David because they claimed it lacked perfection. Michelangelo was able to create something beautiful despite the flawed material he had been given.

We visited the statue of David on a February day along with a few other hardy souls who were braving Florence at the coldest time of the year. The absence of the crowds that usually mill around David made it possible for us to spend about 40 minutes examining not only his hands but all his features from every side. 

David has a determined, focused look in his eye. His cheeks are smooth and his upper lip is just a little bigger than the lower one. His nostrils are slightly flared, his brow mildly furrowed and his hair classically curly.

You can see the clear outline of his rib cage. His elbows appear calloused and rough and his feet are crusty and cracked. 

My husband Dave is right. Michelangelo’s David does have big hands. He also has a big heart, one filled with enough courage, confidence and youthful enthusiasm to try the impossible and succeed.

Just the way his creator Michelangelo succeeded when he took an imperfect piece of marble and turned it into something that has become one of the most universally recognized pieces of art in the world.

If you liked this post you might also like…….

Galileo’s Grocery List

A Bizzare Museum in Florence 


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Filed under Art, Culture, Italy, Travel

A Waterfall on the Library

Have you ever noticed the waterfall on the Millennium Library? himmer waterfall winnipeg

It is cascading off a ledge on the side of the building and glimmers and sparkles in the sunshine.  It appears to be moving and flowing.   The artist who made it out of plywood, plastic and sequins is Theresa Himmer. Theresa is from Denmark but works in Reykjavik, kind of fitting since Manitoba has such a significant Icelandic population. 

waterfall theresa himmer The artist says it “playfully investigates the relationship between artificial and natural landscapes. “

waterfall artOne of the things I love about Winnipeg’s downtown is all the interesting public art especially during the pandemic when art galleries are closed.   You can see a video of the waterfall moving here. 

Other posts…….

I’m Living in an Art Gallery

The Millennium Library

Katherena Vermette on the Wall

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Filed under Art, Winnipeg

An Australian Epiphany

January 6 is Epiphany the day the Christian church remembers the visit the Magi made to see Jesus after he was born. That story has been illustrated in many different ways. On a visit to the Museum of Sydney in Australia, I photographed two visual representations of the Magi narrative I particularly appreciate.

Three Wise Men by Linda Syddickphotographed at the Museum of Sydney

In this tapestry Indigenous artist, Linda Syddick has depicted the Magi like the Tingari, ancient ancestral spirit beings who went on long journeys across the desert landscape of Australia teaching people about important laws and customs. The Tingari Magi are looking at Jesus and offering Mary and Joseph cups of billy tea. Billy tea is a traditional Australian way of making tea by boiling water in a tin can over a fire.

Linda Syddick helps us see how the Biblical Magi story, can intersect with stories from other faith and cultural traditions and enhance our appreciation and understanding of the astrologers’ visit as it is described in the book of Matthew.

A Curiosity in Her Own Country by Phil Mayphotographed at the Museum of Sydney

This 1888 cartoon by Phil May was published in a Sydney newspaper. It shows an Indigenous woman and her child sitting on the street and being stared at. In the late 1800s, Indigenous people in Australia lived out of sight on reserves so people rarely saw them. The cartoonist was remarking on the irony of the fact that although the woman and child represent the original inhabitants of Australia they are being looked at as objects of curiosity by the colonizers who marginalized them.

Australia by Martin Sharp photographed at the Museum of Sydney

In 2009 Australian artist Martin Sharp created a painting based on the 1888 cartoon.  Sharp’s rendition was made to look like a nativity scene. The mother and child both have halos the way Mary and Jesus often do in Renaissance paintings.  The stars adorning Sharp’s painting remind us of the starry sky in Bethlehem that led the Magi to Jesus.  The colonizers looking at the mother and child represent the Magi.

Sharp has used the Magi story to make an important political statement about the relationship between Indigenous and colonizer citizens. It makes us think about why that relationship needs to change.

These two Australian artists give us a new perspective on the Epiphany story.

Other posts………

The Magi Once Got Me Into Trouble

The Magi Around the World

Edge of the Trees

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Filed under Art, Religion

What If God Is Just A Stranger on A Bus?

The Parable of the Lost Silver Piece by Godefridus Schalcken 1643-1706- The Hague

I appreciate the many metaphors for God in the Bible- a rock, a shepherd, the light, the wind and a king.  I’ve always loved the feminine metaphors in Scripture comparing God to a human mother, a mother hen, a mother bear, a mother eagle and a woman searching for a lost silver coin. But I had never considered the metaphor of stranger in relation to God, till I listened to an interview with Irish philosopher Richard Kearney. 

Abraham and the Three Strangers by Marc Chagall

Kearny pointed out how God came to Abraham and Sarah in the guise of three strangers to tell them the news they were to become parents. Abraham and Sarah welcomed the strangers and gave them food. 

Trinity by Andrei Rublev- 1411 or 1425-27

Kearny said when the Russian Orthodox painter Andrei Rublev created his famous icon of the Trinity he chose to portray them as the three strangers who visited Abraham and Sarah. 

The Cestello Annunciation by Sandro Bottecelli -1489

Mary, Jesus’ mother also welcomes a stranger in the form of the angel Gabriel who tells her she is going to have a baby.

In his interview, Kearny referred to Botticelli’s painting of Mary and Gabriel because Mary does look somewhat hesitant about accepting this strange being who brings such astounding news. Mary is reaching her hand to the stranger at the same time as she is backing away. 

We know Jesus referred to himself as a stranger, when he said, “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in.”

Supper at Emmaus by Caravaggio 1601

After Jesus’ resurrection, he appears as a stranger to fellow travellers on the road to Emmaus. They chat with Jesus and even have a meal with him but don’t recognize him.  

Philoxenia Love of the Stranger by Rev. Charlie Baber a comic artist for the North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church. Look closely at the poster to see who Baber has chosen to be the three strangers in his take on the original Rublev icon.

What does the metaphor of God as a stranger teach us? We are so often wary of strangers, yet if strangers’ faces reflect the face of God then at the very least we owe them a smile, a greeting, and perhaps an invitation to share conversation.  

I am finding during the pandemic that just like me, the strangers I pass as I walk outdoors seem hungry for positive recognition and interaction, isolated as we are from other people so much of the time. 

A number of years ago there was a news story about a Winnipeg transit driver who stopped his bus on a chilly morning to get out and give his shoes to a barefoot stranger. The story garnered international attention. The bus driver seemed surprised at all the media exposure he was receiving. He figured most people would do the same thing he did if they saw a stranger in need. 

In 1995 singer Joan Osborne had a hit song called What If God Was One of Us? The chorus goes………

What if God was one of us……………….. just a stranger on the bus trying to make his way home?

Other posts about strangers on buses………..

Another Friend for the Moment

Bus Chat

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Filed under Art, Reflections, Religion