Category Archives: Art

The Fist – Determined or Aggressive

The Fist by Robert Graham- photo from Wikipedia

On one of our many visits to Detroit, we did a guided public art tour where we looked at some of the sculptures and murals on display throughout the city. One artwork I haven’t forgotten is The Fist created by artist Robert Graham in 1986.  The sculpture is a tribute to boxer Joe Louis the first African American athlete to become a national hero. He shattered the myth of Nazi supremacy by beating German fighter Max Schmeling in 1938.  Louis’ accomplishments as a black athlete are said to have paved the way for the civil rights movement of the 60s and for the success of future black athletes like baseball player Jackie Robinson.  

the fist robert graham wikimedia photo by Walter Powers

Photo by Walter Powers from Wikimedia

There has been lots of controversy about The Fist. Some object to the fact the fist in the sculpture is clenched making it seem less a symbol of determination and strength and more a symbol of aggression.  Critics say the sculpture looks like a representation of black militant power and that’s not at all what Joe Louis was about. He changed attitudes by excelling in his field, not through violent confrontation.  Yet his field of sport was a kind of violent confrontation. Certainly, the sculpture seemed threatening to some vandals who in 2004 covered it in white paint and left a message about white people ready for a fight with African Americans. 

I have been thinking about The Fist in the last few days. The way different people interpreted the artwork represent two different kinds of thinking about how meaningful societal change can take place when it comes to racism- through violent action or excelling in your field so that you become a positive, inspiring and influential role model for change.  

The African American community has produced plenty of inspiring role models including a former president, hundreds of celebrated athletes, entertainment icons,  authors, scientists, educators- people who have excelled in their fields, in literally every area of human endeavour. But still, racism exists in the United States some eighty years after Joe Louis became a national hero and…….. it is racism still so potent the country’s current president is confident he can leverage it to hold onto his political power.  Perhaps that helps to explain why some of the protests in America have turned violent in the last few days. 

Several articles about The Fist mention that it is pointing in the direction of Canada just a few miles away from Detroit?  What might that imply? 

black lives matter winnipegThere will be an event on Friday at the Manitoba Legislature in support of the protestors in the United States. Note the fists on the logo for their event. 

Other posts………….

Inspiration from Maya Angelou

It’s Harder to Hate Up Close

Encouragement After the American Election

 

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The Joy of Vacuuming, Trees and Proud of Hong Kong

My husband is vacuuming! Dave does lots of things to help maintain our home but vacuuming has never been one of them. However early on during our time of isolation, he was looking for something to do and decided to give vacuuming a try. He wasn’t impressed with our vacuum cleaner. It was ten years old, didn’t have great suction and I had duct-taped it together at a couple of places.

Dave decided we needed a new vacuum cleaner and so his project for nearly a week was doing research on vacuum cleaners. He read all kinds of consumer reports, scrolled through endless online reviews of vacuum cleaners and weighed all the pros and cons of various makes and models before deciding what kind of vacuum cleaner was the best buy for us.  He ordered one and it arrived yesterday.  Dave was excited!  He quickly assembled the new vacuum cleaner and tried it out. He figures he’s made a pretty good purchase.

I am delighted that someone else has taken over vacuuming duties at our place. I hope the novelty doesn’t wear off any time soon. Dave has been cleaning our bathrooms and doing lots of cooking and most of the grocery shopping. According to a New York Times, article women are responsible for the majority of the housework during the lockdown.  Not at our house. It was raining yesterday so we decided to go for a walk in the forest in St. Boniface hoping it would provide a bit of protection from the elements. I am lucky to be sharing my COVID-19 isolation with someone who is obsessive and passionate about exercise.  Dave insists on getting exercise every day and I am glad to go along.  I am not sure I would be motivated to exercise daily on my own.  An article in the Washington Post says there are two good reasons to keep on exercising during the pandemic. Exercise keeps your immune system at an optimal level and helps you manage stress. 

Poplar Woods by Fitzgerald

I was back at the art gallery where I used to work on Tuesday, well not physically but virtually, via Zoom. The Winnipeg Art Gallery was hosting one of its Books and Brushes sessions where artwork and literature intersect. I have led some of the Books and Brushes sessions in the past but this one was hosted by Bonnie, one of the other guides and she did a wonderful job of introducing us to the work of Manitoba artist Lionel Fitzgerald. His paintings of trees tied in particularly well with the novel we discussed The Overstory which is about environmental activists trying to save the world’s forests. The session made me want to go to the art gallery in-person to see the Fitzgerald exhibit Into the Light.  

It also made me think of other wonderful artwork related to trees we have in our collection at the Winnipeg Art Gallery like…….

Root Dress by Barb Hunt 

Tree Movement by Emily Carr 

Early Snow by Tom Thompson

The Poet by Ossip Zadkine

A photo I took in the Mong Kok area of Hong Kong the most densely populated place on earth

I am proud of the people of Hong Kong a place I made my home for six years.  Although their country is densely populated they have had only a handful of COVID-19 deaths.  Why? When their government failed to respond in an adequately pro-active and responsible way to COVID-19 the people took matters into their own hands.

Hong Kong street sweeper

They formed vast armies of volunteers to distribute hand sanitizer and masks to poor and vulnerable citizens. 7000 medical workers went on strike to force the government to shut the border to mainland China and provide them with proper PPE. The government had banned face masks during the Hong Kong democracy protests and had kept the ban in place once the pandemic began. According to an article in The Atlantic, everyone ignored the order and there was almost universal mask-wearing. Media platforms with vast contact networks that had been set up to rally protestors for democracy demonstrations quickly pivoted to distribuing information about COVID-19.  Atlantic writer Zeynep Tufekci says the “city’s citizens acted swiftly, collectively, and efficiently, and in effect saved themselves.”

With my sister and brother-in-law on the Hong Kong Harbour

Other posts…………

Housework

So What Do You Think About What Is Going On in Hong Kong

Sitting is the New Smoking- I Was Fitter in Hong Kong

Books and Brushes Connecting Art and Literature

 

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Filed under Art, COVID-19 Diary, Hong Kong

Into The Wilds of Winnipeg

Where am I?  In an art gallery?  In Canada’s north?  No. I am right here in Winnipeg.  Lately, Dave and I have been going on almost daily cycling trips for 90 minutes to two-hours.

This is what a pandemic cyclist looks like on a frosty April morning in Manitoba. I have so many layers of clothing on it might be hard to pedal my bike.

Even on the coldest days we bundle up and head out.  The temperatures are chilly and sometimes it even snows on our bike rides but the road is clear, the fresh air feels so wonderful and we get some much-needed exercise.  Most people are polite and proactive about keeping their physical distance.  Dave has cycling maps of Winnipeg and he looks for interesting places to ride.  

A few days ago we visited a kind of outdoor public art gallery created by artist Kal Barteski in the alley behind her house in Wolseley. Called Back Alley Arctic it is located between Ethelbert and Canora streets, south of Westminster Avenue. A Winnipeg Free Press article notes that Barteski was inspired by the wildlife she saw on her many visits to Churchill Manitoba.

Check out the snow goose above Dave’s head

 In 2017 she created a gallery of Arctic animals on the garage doors and fences of her neighbours. She began with her own garage door and it wasn’t long before her neighbours inquired about having paintings on their properties as well. You can see puffins, wolves, snowy owls, beluga whales, snow geese and all kinds of polar bears at different stages of their lives and in different seasons. 

Kal Barteski from her Instagram page

Barteski predicts the outdoor artworks should last for about a decade. 

Riding my bike on a beach in Tamarindo Costa Rica

Dave and I have been on cycling adventures in Bali, Portugal, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Costa Rica, China’s Guangxi province and Croatia.

Dave and me bicycling on the city wall in Xian China.

We’ve bicycled through the cities of New York, Toronto, Detroit, Xian, Sydney and Florence. The pandemic means we can’t go cycling in more exotic locales right now but we are finding there are some pretty interesting places to explore right here in Winnipeg.

Other posts……………

The Driedgers Bike Boblo Island

Biking in Yangshou- Faithless? Definitely Not!

Cycling in Croatia- The Best of Times and The Worst of Times

A Perfect Way to End Our Portugal Adventure

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Oh What Fun!

Here I am with the cactus bandana I made in the hands-on education room in the Arizona State University Art Gallery. I had such a fun time there! As you entered the space you could watch a video featuring an artist named Cruz Ortiz. He explains how he created the art on display in the room.

Summer Nite Star Dream by Cruz Ortiz

He went out into the Sonoran Desert near Phoenix and drew sketches of all kinds of things. Then he created woodblock carvings of the things he’d drawn.

Palo Verde Cream by Cruz Ortiz

He inked the woodblocks and used them to make the prints that he arranged together in order to compose his larger artworks. There was a table with all kinds of woodblock prints sort of like the ones in the Ortiz artworks and fresh white cloth bandanas. You could unfold one and then make your own special piece of art. I had so much fun making the first one that I made a second one too! There was this floor to ceiling cupboard in the space and a sign nearby that explained what a still life artwork was. You were invited to take objects from the shelves and arrange them to create your own still life.  I made three.

Hospitality

Ocean Treasures

Travel

Then you could sit at a table and sketch your own still life object.

One whole wall in the space was for making poetry. You could rearrange the magnetic words to create a poem of your own. I composed one about my mother and one for Elisabeth Warren who had just bowed out of the Democratic Presidential race.  I was sad that the youngest, most intelligent, most energetic, most organized, most personable, most positively passionate of the three remaining viable candidates was judged more for her gender than her competence. Before you left the space you were invited to add your comments and ideas to these long strings hanging from the pillars in the space.  In the background, you can see my partner Dave who read while I had my fun but was always willing to put his book down and take a picture as needed. I wrote two different messages and pinned them to the strings in the education space.

Something else that was cool and fun was that the art studio where I was enjoying myself was just next to the Arizona State school of music. Since it was a lovely day there were musicians all over the place outside rehearsing and they provided a wonderful musical accompaniment to my artistic endeavours.

Other posts………….

Artists in Action

A Dutch Touch on a Fine Fall Afternoon

Meet You At The Folio

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Is It Really A Teapot?

Queen of Hearts Teapot by Michael Sherrill

Michael Sherrill is a ceramicist from North Carolina with an international reputation for his work.

Blue Teapot by Michael Sherrill

He got his start making teacups and teapots to sell at local craft fairs and souvenir shops in order to support his young family.

Two Sides of Tea by Michael Sherrill

Michael makes his home in the mountains of North Carolina and was initially inspired by the local folk pottery.

Red Lacquer Teapot by Michael Sherrill

I saw Michael’s work on display at the art gallery on the Arizona State University Campus.

Michael Sherrill

 In a video, Michael explains how he sculpts his ceramic pieces and talks about an innovative set of hand-held clay tools he has developed.  He made them for use in his own work but now they are sold to ceramic artists around the world under the label Mudtools.

My Moving Heart by Michael Sherrill

Although primarily self-taught Michael is now an instructor at the Penland School of Crafts. 

Leather Jacket Teapot by Michael Sherrill

Michael’s exploration of the teapot form began by making fully functional teapots but…..

Happy to See You Teapot by Michael Sherrill

he has pushed that idea to the extreme so that now sometimes his ceramic sculptures are barely recognizable as teapots.

Halcyon Teapot by Michael Sherrill

Michael says he is no longer interested in whether the teapot actually pours.  The most important thing is whether it is exciting visually.

Jacob’s Ladder Teapot by Michael Sherrill

This begs the question of whether something can actually be called a teapot if you can’t make or serve tea in it. When is a teapot not a teapot? 

Other posts………..

English Tea With The T-4s

Clay Conversations

A Giant Recycling Project

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Memorable Final Day

I’ve given my last tours of the amazing Kent Monkman exhibit at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. It’s still on view till February 23 but I am off on a trip and won’t return till after the exhibit is gone. Taking people through Monkman’s  Shame and Prejudice has been one of the highlights of my eight years of working at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. I think between touring groups for my job at the WAG and touring friends, family, acquaintances and people from my church, I have given more than thirty tours of the exhibit. My last day of work was certainly a memorable one for me.On my first tour, I was with a group of students from a rural high school.  They kept noticing details in the work I hadn’t seen before.  I’ll give you one example.  In his Res House installation Monkman addresses the issue of sports teams appropriating indigenous names and symbols by having the father figure wear a Chicago Black Hawks jersey. He has reimagined the hockey’s teams’ insignia using the face of Miss Chief.  Miss Chief is a trickster, two-spirited character who appears in many of  Monkman’s works. But what I had never noticed before was that Miss Chief’s initials were in her black hair.  One of the students pointed out the MC to me and there it was plain as day.  

Then at the end of the tour, an indigenous student approached me and asked to shake my hand.  He told me how much he had liked the tour and how impressed he was with Kent Monkman’s work. He told me he had been in the care of Child and Family Services since he was a baby and had been in dozens of different foster homes. We had a fairly long talk about some of his experiences, some of his hopes for the future, and how he had learned to become an advocate for himself.  It was such a valuable and important learning experience for me. 

I was sorry to have to break off our conversation because I had another tour waiting this time a group of government employees.  They were very engaged and appreciative and they filled me in on some additional information about the various pieces of art. For example, in the painting Luncheon in the Grass or  Dejeuner sur l’Herbe, which Kent says in a CBC interview addresses the issue of violence against indigenous women, one of my tour participants spotted the clerical collar on the dashboard of the expensive car in the painting. It also features a licence plate with a symbol of the early Christian church and rosary beads wrapped around the mirror. I had never noticed the clerical collar before.

One man on that same tour was very inspired by the story of how as an elementary school student in Winnipeg, Kent Monkman had been part of a program that sponsored children to take art lessons at the Winnipeg Art Gallery.  The gentleman wanted to know more about similar current programs.  I had to cut off that interesting conversation because another tour awaited me. 

My third group of the day were university students.  We started in the room with Kent’s riveting and disturbing painting The Scream about children being forcibly taken from their families to attend residential schools.  Several of the young women in the group were in tears as we discussed the artwork, one indigenous student was weeping openly.  I stopped for a moment so she could collect herself before we went on to the next area of the exhibit.  This group had so many great comments, observations and insights.  

Another memorable thing about the day was that a warm and wonderful art teacher from Japan who is doing a study term in Canada and has been serving as an intern at the Winnipeg Art Gallery for many months now was shadowing me on my tours to prepare for giving a tour of the Kent Monkman exhibit in the Japanese language to some of her fellow students from Japan.  She drew a sketch of me during one of the tours.  

My feet were sore but my heart was full after giving three back to back tours of Kent Monkman’s Shame and Prejudice A Story of Resilience.  I couldn’t have asked for a better way to end my experience with the groundbreaking exhibit.   

Other posts………

A Different Kind of Nativity Scene

The Scream

Incarceration

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My Day in Comics

I follow the very talented artist and designer Jonathan Dyck on Instagram. Last Saturday he drew a comic for every waking hour in his day and posted each one on Instagram.

Drawing by Jonathan Dyck used with his permission

I especially liked the comic he did of the Royal Canoe Ice Show at The Forks.

As many of you know I have been working on drawing comics and while I wasn’t ready to draw a comic every hour, I decided that his past Saturday I would draw four comics to represent my day.  Here they are.

Other posts………..

Drawing Comics

A Puzzling Achievement

So Cool

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