Category Archives: Art

A Different Kind of Nativity Scene

This afternoon I will be giving a group from my church a tour of the Kent Monkman exhibit Shame and Prejudice at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. One of the installations we will spend time looking at is a nativity scene that is part of an area of the exhibit called The Res House. In one of his lectures Kent Monkman explains how in this artwork he has set the birth of Jesus in a house on one of Canada’s First Nations’ reservations. Kent clearly shows the less than ideal condition of the housing. One of the first things you notice is that the Mary, Joseph and Jesus figures all have the same face and it is the face of artist Kent Monkman.  Kent explains that he was visiting the Natural History Museum in New York when he realized they had used one male face on all the indigenous mannequins in every single diorama, no matter what First Nation they belonged to, or even whether they were male or female.  So Kent thought “well, then I’m just going to put my head on everybody now.”

The baby is lying on a Hudson’s Bay blanket. The arrival of fur trading companies like the Hudson’s Bay in Canada changed the lives of Canada’s indigenous people forever. 

There is Coke in the baby’s bottle.  Could that be because the container of milk on the shelf costs nearly $20 on some reserves? Kent has food on the shelves in the house with their real prices.

In the background you can see a child being taken away to residential school.  Will that be the eventual fate of the new baby? 

There is bottled water in the house- a reference to the fact that there is still a boil water advisory in some Canadian communities and people have to drink bottled water because their water source isn’t clean or safe. 

Joseph is wearing a Chicago Black Hawks jersey and it can start a discussion about how professional sports teams have appropriated indigenous names and symbols.  Kent has replaced the face of the man on the jersey with his alter ego, trickster character Miss Chief who appears in many of Kent’s pieces in the Shame and Prejudice exhibit. 

The Mary figure is holding a rosary in her hand.  Instead of Jesus on the cross, there is a beaver. Beavers with praying hands look heavenward on the top frame of the exhibit which features Latin words that mean Love Conquers All.  

Adoration of the Magi by Jorg Stocker 1510

The placement of this installation is also interesting because just behind it in an adjoining gallery is another nativity scene that is very different from the one Kent has created.  

There are so many details in Kent’s nativity scene to notice and discuss. I think the tour I give my church will be the 15th one of the Monkman exhibit I have led and each time I learn something new from the visitors I show Kent’s work.  I am excited about what the people from my church may find this afternoon. 

Other posts………….


The Scream


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Filed under Art, Holidays, winnipeg art gallery

Drawing Comics

I bought Lynda Barry’s Making Comics as a Christmas gift for myself.  Lynda is a painter, cartoonist, writer, illustrator and playwright and an associate professor of art at the University of Wisconsin Madison. Lynda believes drawing is one of the oldest, most natural, most spontaneous ways of communicating.  You don’t need to have artistic skill to express yourself through drawing.  According to Lynda you just have to be brave and sincere. She teaches a university class in making comics and in her book she leads you through the same lessons she does with her students. Lynda says most people quit drawing around age nine or ten because they think they can’t draw realistically enough. Lynda introduces you to the Ivan Brunetti style of drawing people which she claims any one can do.  My first assignment was to give myself a name and draw myself as that person.  I decided to call myself Miss Renaissance and draw myself doing things that are part of my everyday life. Next I had to pick from a long list of suggestions and draw myself doing certain things or becoming something else. I showed my grandson the list of suggestions when he visited me at Christmas and he asked if he could draw himself as a God of Fire in my notebook. Here’s his drawing.  I loved it!  

I am well along in the book by now and have had to complete all kinds of interesting assignments. I had to draw these things with my eyes closed. I had to draw this person with a felt marker in each hand and always have both hands moving at the same time. Right now I am in the diary portion of the book. Everyday I have to write down seven things I see and do, something I hear and a question about my day. Then on the next page, I have to draw myself doing something and write about it. On this day I wrote about going to a yoga class. Here is the drawing I made when I went to the Thermea spa one evening with a bunch of other people. 

I am really enjoying my course.  I am on page 75 of the book and am looking forward to the other drawing challenges Lynda will give me and what I will learn about myself while doing them.  

Lynda believes anyone can make comics and she thinks the best ones come from people who gave up drawing a long time ago like I did. She says drawing comics can bring lots of enjoyment and surprise and meaning into your life.

Other posts……….

When Did You Stop Drawing?

I’m Trying to Draw Cartoons

Don’t Be Scared To Be Creative


Filed under Art

What Are All These Bicycles Doing At the Forks?

If you have been down to The Forks lately you will probably have seen this amazing bicycle sculpture by the Chinese artist Ai Wei Wei. Called Forever Bicycles it contains 1254 bicycles. The Forever brand of bicycles was available in China when Ai Wei Wei was a child but was way too expensive for most people to afford.

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

Ai Wei Wei said he used bicycles in his sculpture because they are still an important means of transportation in China. We certainly learned that ourselves when we traveled in China dozens of times over a period of about six years. This is not the first time Ai Wei Wei has used bicycles in a piece of art. We saw a bicycle installation of his at the Art Gallery of Ontario in 2013.  That piece was said to be a commentary on how some people in China were beginning to abandon their bicycles in favour of cars.

I pose with a statue of Ai Wei Wei at the Art Gallery of Ontario

Ai Wei Wei often makes art with a very political message and it has got him into lots of trouble with the Chinese government.  After being arrested and then released in China in 2011 he moved to Berlin where he lives and works and travels internationally to install and talk about his art.

Our family on the sledding hill at the Forks

The Ai Wei Wei sculpture is at the top of the sledding hill at the Forks so you can have some winter fun while you enjoy this unique piece of art. 

Other posts………

Ai Wei Wei- Giving the Finger to His Home and Native Land Through Art

The Children of Sichuan

Canada Day At the Forks

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Filed under Art, Winnipeg

Three Women – Love This Piece

One of my favourite sculptures at the Winnipeg Art Gallery is this one of three ordinary village women in rural Quebec. I think they are either going home from the market with their bags and baskets full of produce or maybe they are going off to the market with things they plan to sell there. They walk with purpose, perhaps into the wind, managing their loads with their strong arms.  The sculpture is called Femmes de Caughnawaga and was made in 1924.  From the way their robes are wrapped around them I like to think it is a chilly autumn day.  Maybe they are hurrying home down a country road to make supper for their families. 

Marc- Aurele de Foy Suzor – Cote in his studio- photo from the McCord Museum

The sculpture was made by Marc-Aurèle de Foy Suzor-Coté a Canadian who travelled to France in the 1890s and studied art in Paris. He returned to Canada in 1907 and used his paintings and sculptures to show the people and landscape of Quebec’s Eastern Townships. The women in this sculpture are from his village. 

Crouching Venus by Pietro Barzanti 1890 is in the same gallery as Femmes de Caughnawaga. 

Three other sculptures in the gallery where Femmes de Caughnawaga is displayed are of idealized women from Greek and Roman mythology.  The sculpture of ordinary Canadian women going about their daily routines in rural Quebec offers a refreshing contrast. 

Look for them the next time you are at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. 

Other posts………..

So Tiny

What’s an Amauti

Talk About Defying Convention

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Filed under Art, winnipeg art gallery

Little Women- Getting To Know A Character In A New Way

Florence Pugh plays the role of Amy March in 2019’s Little Women 

Our family saw Little Women when it opened on Christmas Day. One of the things I enjoyed about the film was that director Greta Gerwig gives more prominence and depth to the character of Amy March, the sister who is the artist in the family, and one who has not always seemed that likeable in previous movies based on Louisa May Alcott’s book. Amy matures and shines in the new movie. My favourite scene is one in which she makes a really impassioned speech about the limitations placed on women in the 1800s. 

Photo of Abigail May Alcott and portrait of her painted by her Paris roommate Rose Peckham

I always knew that the novel Little Women was semi-autobiographical and after seeing the movie I wanted to learn more about what Amy March had in common with Louisa May Alcott’s younger sister Abigail who was known as May to her family.  As it turns out, like Amy in the book, May was also an artist. With the income from her writing, Louisa was able to help her sister May study art in Boston and Europe.  

Still Life With Bottle by May Alcott exhibited in the 1877 Paris Salon and La Négresse by May Alcott exhibited in the Paris Salon in 1879

May who was a writer, as well as an artist, wrote a guidebook for other woman called Studying Art Abroad and How To Do It Cheaply. Although it wasn’t easy to be a female artist and get your work exhibited in the late 1800s May had several of her paintings accepted into the famous Paris Salon, something very few women managed to achieve. She was friends with American artist Mary Cassatt wh also exhibited at the Paris Salon.

Lulu Alcott, May’s daughter came to America to live with her Aunt Louisa when she was ten months old

While living abroad May met and fell in love with a Swiss businessman, Ernest Nieriker, and they were married in a quiet, private ceremony in Paris. Theirs was a happy marriage but sadly May died shortly after the birth of her little daughter Louisa, who they called Lulu. At the dying request of her mother, Lulu was sent home to America to live with her Aunt Louisa. 

I have ordered the novel The Other Alcott by Elise Hooper to help me further explore the woman on whom Louisa May Alcott based her character, Amy. 

I think one of the reasons Greta Gerwig’s film Little Women is proving so popular is because she gives us new insight into some of the characters in the much-beloved novel, helping us see them through a modern lens in ways that are both engaging and intriguing. 

Other posts………

Celebrity Sighting At Breakfast

Ojibwa in Paris

Who is She? 

Why Do We Share Our Worst Selves With Those We Love the Most?


Filed under Art, Movies, People


prayer installationA new exhibit at the Winnipeg Art Gallery by artist James Webb is called Prayer.  The installation is an ongoing project that began in Cape Town South Africa in 2000.  The 10th version currently at the Winnipeg Art Gallery was created in the city of Chicago.  The exhibit consists of dozens and dozens of recordings of prayers spoken by people of many different religious affiliations. There are prayers said by Catholics, Lutherans,  Occultists, Episcopalians, Hindus, Bahai, Presbyterians, Mormons and Methodists.  There are prayers spoken in Buddhist temples, Jewish synagogues, Muslim mosques and evangelical churches. 

james webb prayerVisitors can take off their shoes and walk down the red carpet listening to the prayers arising from all the different speakers or they can sit down in front of one speaker and listen to the variety of prayers emanating from it.

prayer james webbJames Webb is a musician and visual artist from South Africa and has a degree in comparative religions.  As he moves his project to one city after another Webb creates a collaborative community of people from many different faiths and provides a sort of spiritual and religious landscape of that city.  As I experienced the Chicago version of Prayer I thought how interesting it would be to create a similar installation with people from the city of Winnipeg.  

Prayer will be in Winnipeg till May.  Be sure to stop in and experience it on your next visit to the Winnipeg Art Gallery. 

Other posts………..

A Prayer For a Golf Tournament

An Artist’s Prayer

A Prayer for the New Year

Two Artists on Prayer


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Filed under Art, Religion, winnipeg art gallery

Waiting For the Wise Men

waiting for the wise manMy friend and former colleague Elizabeth posted this painting by Lee Silk Kaercher on her Facebook page.  It is called Waiting for the Wise Men. Elizabeth, who lives in Texas, the state nearest the United States’ southern border, said her heart wept at this image of a young Jesus separated from his refugee parents Mary and Joseph in the same way her country is choosing to separate refugee children from their parents and place them in detention centres.  

Elizabeth said the title of the painting Waiting for the Wise Men made her think of the political climate in the United States.  Everyone seems to be waiting for some wise leader who will rise up and solve the immigration situation in a merciful way.  Surely there is some man or woman out there who could lead the United States with wisdom, compassion, empathy and love? 

The painting Waiting for the Wise Men made me want to ask, “Why is everyone waiting for some wise man or woman to rise up and help humanity become more caring and compassionate?”  There is no need to wait for such a leader.  If enough people are committed enough, and caring enough, change can happen now.  If everyone did their small part to make the world a kinder place, a more just place, it would become exactly that. And I think there are many people who are being kind and compassionate and caring, wise men and women whose actions will eventually bring about systemic change.  We just don’t tend to read about those people in the media, where tyrants and mean-mouthed bullies take centre stage. 

What do we need to do?  Actually, the words attributed to the little boy in the painting tell us. “Love your neighbour as yourself.”  And how do you do that? Jesus said by showing mercy. If we all acted with mercy instead of anger, mercy instead of self-centeredness, mercy instead of indifference  Waiting for the Wise Men would be unnecessary. 

Other posts……….

Supporting Refugees Before It Was Trendy

Tolerating Other Christians

The Beatitudes Come to Life


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Filed under Art, Holidays