Category Archives: Art

Picasso’s Hidden Message

“Are there any hidden messages in the paintings?”  I was starting a tour with some elementary school students at the Winnipeg Art Gallery.  I told them we would be like detectives or explorers looking for interesting details in the art.  One girl put up her hand to ask if I knew of  any hidden or secret messages in the paintings.  Luckily I had an idea where we could find one.  

woman in a hat with flowers dora maar 1944

Women in a Hat With Flowers by Picasso 1944

As we viewed this painting Picasso made of his lover Dora Maar I asked the children if they could find Dora’s name hidden in the painting. It didn’t take them long to pick out the four letters.  Check out the arrows. 

letter D woman in a hat with flowers dora maar 1945

The upper case D

letter o woman in a hat with flowers dora maar 1946

The letter o

letter rwoman in a hat with flowers dora maar 1947

The cursive r

letter a woman in a hat with flowers dora maar 1948

The letter A two ways- a lower case backwards one to the right or an uppercase sideways one to the left

The children thought it was very cool Picasso hid Dora’s name in his painting of her.  It got them searching for hidden messages in every piece of art. The intense looking that inspired helped them discover lots of other interesting things about the artwork they viewed. 

Other posts……..

What in the World is That?

Plants That Talked to Me

Two Artists -Me and My Grandson

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Filed under Art, Education, WInnipeg Art Gallery

A Scary Story

joe talirunili

A new display of Inuit artwork on the mezzanine level of the Winnipeg Gallery includes this popular piece called Migration by Joe Talirunili. It tells the story of a harrowing time in Joe’s childhood. I found many different versions of the story on the internet but here is my compilation. Joe and his family and some friends were going back home on their sleds after a celebration on an island in Hudson’s Bay.   The ice under them began to break up and they were trapped on an ice floe. They had to work fast before the ice floe broke up further, but they managed to use the wood from their sleds and some seal skins to make a boat that got them to shore.  The shoreline was made up of very steep rock and so they secured their boat with a rope and waited.  The wind blew incredibly hard for almost a week making it too dangerous for them to leave.  They nearly starved to death before the weather let up and they were able to find their way home. Some people lost their lives at various points in the tragic story.  Joe made some thirty carvings of this adventure all called Migration. One of Joe’s Migration sculptures was featured on a Canadian stamp in 1976 the year he died, and in 2006 another sold at auction for $278,000 the highest price ever for a single Inuit artwork. 

Other posts about Inuit artists………

Getting to Know Oviloo

Transferring the Real to the Unreal

Falling in Love


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A Waterfall on the Library

I walk past Winnipeg’s Millennium Library several times a week, but yesterday I happened to look up at just the right spot and noticed for the first time that there was a waterfall on the library.  himmer waterfall winnipeg

It was cascading off a ledge on the side of the building and glimmered and sparkled in the sunshine.  It appeared to be moving and flowing.   When I got home I found out 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 himmerThe art work is called Waterfall #2 because a similar piece by Himmer called Waterfall#1 was installed in Reykjavik in 2006 but was dismantled in 2014. 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. I’ve sometimes said living here is like living in an art gallery. Himmer’s Waterfall#2 is a cool new addition to that art gallery’s collection.  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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Picasso – Not Really a Family Man

seated woman 1926-1927

Seated Woman by Pablo Picasso 1927

It has been suggested that this work by Pablo Picasso currently on display at the Winnipeg Art Gallery is actually a portrait of the great artist’s family. Version 2If you look closely you can see the three intertwining heads of Picasso, his wife Olga and their son Paulo.


By Pablo Picasso – Agence Photographique de la Réunion des Musées Nationaux

Picasso also painted this portrait of his wife. She was Olga Khokhlova a ballet dancer from Russia. Picasso met her when he designed the costumes and sets for a ballet she was performing in Paris. 


Portrait of Paulo by Pablo Picasso -1923

Picasso and Olga’s son Paulo was born in 1921.

seated woman 1926-1927

Seated Woman by Pablo Picasso 1927

Interestingly the painting of his family currently at the Winnipeg Art Gallery was made the same year Picasso began having an affair with a seventeen year old girl, Marie-Thérèse Walter. As he was painting a portrait of the people in his family intertwined together…. he was in the process of breaking his family apart.  

Version 2

Lithograph of Marie Therese – 1928 Pablo Picasso – currently on display at the Winnipeg Art Gallery

Olga left him when she found out about Marie but stayed married to Picasso till her death in 1955, largely because it was the only way she could continue to force him to provide her with financial support.   Sadly Paulo, who was Olga and Picasso’s son, became an alcoholic and died in 1975.  Paulo’s children remember going begging at their grandfather’s door for food and money and being turned away. 

Seated Woman by Pablo Picasso 1927

Seated Woman may be a family portrait but it is not a happy one. Picasso wasn’t really a family man. 

Other posts……..

I’m Shattered

Who’s Twiggy

Picasso Acrostic 

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Build Your Own

The roof is one of my favorite places to take children when they visit the Winnipeg Art Gallery.  They love the idea of being on the very top of the building.  The roof top is closed in winter but lately the beautiful weather has meant we can be outside again.  The signature work on the roof top is this inukshuk sculpture by Manasie Akpaliapik. The children and I look at it carefully and marvel at how the artist got all those uniquely shaped pieces of rock to balance.  I use illustrations to discuss the different kinds of inukshuks built by the Inuit and the purpose of each one.  Then I let some of the children try on the snow goggles that you might have used if you were an explorer in the Arctic searching for an inukshuk.  The goggles which prevent snow blindness are a work of art themselves.  After that it’s time to let the children use baskets of blocks to create inukshuks of their own.  They come up with all kinds of interesting designs.  They gain a real appreciation for artist Manasie Akpaliapik’s work as they try to balance the pieces in their own inukshuk. Last week I was marveling at just how creative all our young visitors to the gallery are, so I decided to take a few photos of their inukshuks.  If you’ve never been on the Winnipeg Art Gallery roof top be sure to go up there on your next visit.  If you let me know you are coming I can join you with our baskets of blocks. 

Other posts……

Portraits in Plasticene

What’s a Portscape?

Love My Job


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Story Sticks

 On Monday Angela Roulette taught the Winnipeg Art Gallery tour guides about story sticks.  Angela began by using her own stick to tell us her life story.  We learned her mother was from the Sandy Bay First Nations community and her father was from the Ebb and Flow First Nations community.  We discovered her former husband liked to sew and that her son-in-law was from Jamaica.  We heard interesting stories about her grandchildren and the diverse group of people she came to know while participating in the Standing Rock protest. In all her stories Angela emphasized the four things we can do to change the world …….. be kind, be honest, be strong and share what you have. 

story stickAfter Angela had told us about her story stick it was our turn to make our own story sticks.  My story stick had many items including three beads to represent my siblings, feathers for my sons and a shell for our family’s lakeside cottage.

Story sticks are a great way to reflect on the important and influential people and experiences in your own life and to share your story with others. 

Other posts……….

Who Do Family Stories Belong To?

Stitching a Story

The Remarkable Story of the Runaway Bay Resource Centre


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I’m Shattered

“I’m shattered,” said a grade twelve art student when we were about half way through a tour of the Picasso exhibit at the Winnipeg Art Gallery.  “I knew Picasso was a great artist but now I’m finding out he wasn’t a very nice person and I’m not sure I can still like his art work.” 

It is nearly impossible to talk about Picasso’s art without examining his relationships because they greatly influenced his work. Picasso had what many would consider a highly dysfunctional personal life.  He was rarely faithful to one partner for more than a short period of time.  

Picasso’s portrait of 17 year old Marie Therese Walter

One of his long-term relationships was with Marie Therese Walter. She was only 17 when their relationship began. Picasso was still married to his wife Olga at the time.  Marie later committed suicide and Olga had a mental breakdown. Pablo and Olga’s son Paulo was a young child when his father’s affair began. As an adult Paulo became an alcoholic who went begging repeatedly with his children to his father’s door for money.  He was ignored.  One of his grandsons and Picasso’s second wife Jacqueline also committed suicide.  

Picasso’s portrait of his partner Dora Maar

His long time partner Dora ended up in a mental institution. He left no will when he died so there have been ongoing law suits amongst his heirs.  Numerous sources talk about how cruel and cold Picasso could be to his family.  

Would it be better to show Picasso’s art without talking about his troubled personal life?  Not with teenagers and adults.  High school students are old enough to do some serious thinking about whether we can separate a person’s private behavior from their public persona and achievements.  I think it is an important discussion to have.  In that way the current Picasso exhibit at the Winnipeg Art Gallery serves double duty, introducing visitors to a man who changed the world of art but also making them consider the price his family and those who loved him paid for his genius and whether it was worth it.  Can you wreak havoc in so many people’s lives and still be considered ‘great?’  Art should make us think deeply about things and the current Picasso exhibit at the Winnipeg Art Gallery certainly does that! 

Other posts………

Are All Artists Troubled?

Picasso Acrostic

Using the Other Side of my Brain

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Filed under Art, WInnipeg Art Gallery