Category Archives: Art

Hyphenated Lives

Sun-Poe by Reena Saina Kallat. The sunbird is the national bird of Palestine and the hoopoe is the national bird of Israel

The drawings look like something you would see in zoology or botany textbooks.  Hyphenated Lives is a collection of art pieces by Reena Saina Kallat that depict hybrid specimens of birds, animals, trees, and plants. They were created by merging two species that are the national emblems of countries that have at some point been politically partitioned. The purpose of national symbols is to unite people but these drawings merge symbols from countries that have been separated. The artist illustrates that not only people but also elements of the natural world are interconnected and also suggests that sometimes nature can defy the barriers set up by politicians. This is the Sees-Yal tree.  On the left, you see the Sessile Oak the national symbol of the Republic of Ireland. On the right, you see the Royal Oak an important symbol in England since legend has it that Charles II hid in an oak tree to escape Oliver Cromwell’s soldiers.   In 1921 Ireland was partitioned, with southern Ireland becoming independent and eventually a republic and Northern Ireland remaining part of the United Kingdom.  Although the relationship between northern and southern Ireland is relatively peaceful right now from 1968-1998 there were thirty years of terrible conflict between the two that resulted in thousands of deaths. Some of the Hyphenated Lives pieces, like this one, feature electric cables. They are a symbol of the way ideas and information can be transmitted bringing people together.  Often however Reena Saina Kallat has them morph into barbed wire barriers.   Behold the Ti-Khor. On the left, you see a tiger, the national animal of India and on the right the markhor, an endangered species of a wild goat that is the national animal of Pakistan. In 1947 a provision of the Indian Independence Act which separated India from Great Britain also separated Pakistan from India. This partition created along religious lines- Pakistan largely Muslim and India largely Hindu- created a refugee crisis and stirred up large scale violence that resulted in the loss of millions of lives. The relationship between Pakistan and India continues to be a troubled one. The Edel-Lip is a hybrid of the Edelweiss the national flower of Austria and the tulip the national flower of Hungary. Austria and Hungary both belonged to the Austro-Hungarian Empire from 1867 to 1918 but after World War I became distinct and separate European countries.  In 1945 the advance of communism in Hungary and the erection of the Iron Curtain which Russia used to separate its European allies from the West created a barrier between Austria and Hungary and Austria took in thousands of refugees from Hungary. The Iron Curtain came down in 1989 and in 2007 an agreement between Austria and Hungary allowed citizens to move back and forth freely between the two countries.

This art piece is called The Jordan River. The  Jewish state of Israel was established in 1948 in an area previously called Palestine that was home to Arab Muslims who became displaced refugees when Israel was established.  Adjacent to Israel to the west of the Jordan River is an area called The West Bank that holds many sites of cultural, historical and religious significance for Jews, Muslims and Christians and there has been a long history of violent conflict as both Israelis and Palestinians have tried to claim this territory. The Jordan River is the primary water source of the area and so it has been at the heart of the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine. The Pea Yel bird is a combination of the peacock which is the national bird of India and the doyel or magpie robin which is the national bird of Bangladesh. The Partition of Bengal in 1947 divided the province between India and Pakistan. Predominantly Hindu West Bengal became a state of India and predominantly Muslim East Bengal which would later become Bangladesh became a province of Pakistan.  

Hyphenated Lives is currently on display at the Winnipeg Art Gallery as part of the Vision Exchange exhibit that features artists who have their roots in India. I find Hyphenated Lives very thought- provoking as I try to envision other combinations of living things that could illustrate the establishment of a relationship between countries or groups of people that have barriers real or imagined between them. 

Other posts………..

Animal Wisdom

Nature’s Artwork

The Book of Creation

 

 

 

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Another Plug For Books And Brushes

middle sex at mcnallys'I was so pleased and excited to see this lovely display at McNally Robinson on Thursday night when I was there for my writers’ group meeting.  I am leading a book club at the Winnipeg Art Gallery based on the book Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides.  We are going to have a great discussion on May 21 at 11:30.  Come and join us.   We will be talking about the book and looking at some art pieces I’ve picked out that can connect with the book. You still have time to read the novel.  As you can see McNally’s still has plenty of copies. Even if you don’t finish the book come and join us.  You can find out how to register here and you can find out more about what we will be doing here.   Would love to see you on the 21st!!

 

 

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Sedna is A Planet

Sedna the Enchantress by Abraham Anghik Ruben

I honestly don’t think I am exaggerating when I say I’ve told the story of Sedna, the Inuit goddess of the sea, over a hundred times in the seven years I have worked at the Winnipeg Art Gallery.  We almost always have a sculpture, painting, print or some other artistic representation of Sedna on display in the gallery.  A quick look through the Winnipeg Art Gallery’s online catalog reveals some fifty artworks with the word Sedna in their titles. 

Sedna in a water and ink drawing by Heather Campbell entitled Methylmercury

Sedna was an Inuit girl whose tragic story reaches its climax when Sedna’s father cuts off her fingers and they are transformed into all the creatures of the sea.  Sedna becomes a sea goddess and Inuit hunters pray to her when they want to find animals to hunt. 

Sedna with Fish- a print by Pitaloosie Saila

As familiar as I am with the Sedna story I only discovered last week that there is a minor planet in the outer reaches of the solar system named after her. It was discovered by Michael Brown, Chad Trujillo and David Rabinowitz in 2003. Sedna is almost as red in color as Mars and has an elongated orbit of 11,400 years.  Michael Brown explains they chose the planet’s name because it is the coldest planet in the solar system with an average temperature of -237.6 degrees Celsius.  So it seemed appropriate to name it after Sedna who is said to live in the frigid waters of the Arctic Ocean.  Sedna has no known moons and is about 13 billion kilometers away. There is some controversy over whether Sedna should be called a minor planet, dwarf planet or simply an astronomical object but there is no question about Sedna’s existence.  That will be an interesting fact to add to my Sedna story when I tell it at the art gallery in the future. 

Other posts…………

Stories in Stone

She is Gripped By Terror

Creation Stories

 

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Books and Brushes – Connecting Art and Literature

I am almost finished re-reading the Pulitzer Prize winning novel Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides.  On May 21st at 11:30 I will lead a Books and Brushes session at the Winnipeg Art Gallery where we will use Middlesex as our inspiration for looking at various pieces of art currently on view in the galleries.  This is the fourth Books and Brushes session I have been assigned. Sometimes finding connections between a book and paintings or sculptures in the galleries is pretty easy. Other times when I start reading a novel I wonder how I will connect it at all. I first read Middlesex several years ago and just loved the breathtaking prose.  Eugenides has this way of describing things and people and events that forces you to go back to read his words over and over and again because they paint such a wondrous picture. But on this second reading I couldn’t get too distracted by the beauty of the words because I had to focus on connections I could make between the book and the WAG art collection. 

The first connection was easy.  Middlesex tells the moving story of Calliope Helen Stephanides a hermaphrodite born in 1960 in Detroit into an incredibly colorful Greek family.   Calliope eventually becomes Cal a fascinating man who works for the American state department in Berlin.

Androgyny by Norval Morrisseau 1983

I knew the reason Middlesex had been chosen by McNally Robinson the Winnipeg Art Gallery’s partner in the Books and Brushes series was because we currently have Norval Morrisseau’s giant mural Androgyny on view in the main lobby of our building.  But what other works of art might connect with the book?

Clouds, Lake Superior- by Lawren Harris 1923

I read and wondered and read and wondered and then about a hundred pages in Voilà! I found a connection to the paintings of Lawren Harris one of Canada’s  famous Group of Seven.

Margaux Hemingway by Tony Scherman

A hundred pages later I made a huge asterisk in my notes by a section of the novel that related perfectly to some new work at the gallery by Canadian artist Tony Scherman.

This kept happening so even though I am not quite finished re-reading Middlesex I know there will be plenty for me to talk about with my fellow book and art lovers on May 21st.   

There is still lots of time for you to buy the book at McNally Robinson read it, and come and join me to discover the connections I’ve made between art and a beautifully written novel.  You might even make some connections of your own and I’d love to talk about them with you. You can find out all the details about the book club here.    Hope to see you there!

Other posts……….

Difficult Women

Bold and Beautiful

Two Diverse Member of the Group of Seven

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The Religion of Trees

Tree Movement by Emily Carr. Photographed at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. 

In an April 22 article in the religion section of the Washington Post writer Matthew Sleeth reminds us that Friday was Arbor Day, an American holiday where people are encouraged to appreciate trees and plant trees.  Here in Canada different provinces recognize Arbor Day in a variety of ways.  The folks in Ontario sponsor an entire Arbor Week which began on Friday.  Here in Winnipeg there will be an Arbor Day celebration on June 1 in St. Vital Park.  You can learn more about that here.  

Trees by Dorothy Knowles. Photographed at the Remai Modern in Saskatoon. 

No matter when Arbor Day is celebrated the point of Sleeth’s Washington Post piece is that all people of faith, but in particular Christians, should be busy planting and protecting trees world-wide. He says trees are mentioned in the Bible more often than any other living thing.  

Olive Trees by Vincent Van Gogh. Photographed at the Minneapolis Institute of Art.

Revelation 22:2 suggests that the leaves of trees might bring healing to the nations of the world. Could caring for trees and our environment be a cause that unites the world?

A glass mosaic called Ash Trees in the Late Afternoon by my cousin Sharon Loeppky. Photographed at the Mennonite Heritage Centre Gallery in Winnipeg. 

In Genesis 21:33 Abraham plants a tree as a symbol for the signing of a peace treaty. Could reforestation projects be a way for countries to come together in peace to replenish the earth’s tree population?

Tree Children by Winnipeg artist Leo Mol. Photographed just outside the Richardson Building in downtown Winnipeg.

What a different world we might have if everyone acted like “oaks of righteousness” the way  good people are described in Isaiah 61:3.  Jesus said in the beatitudes that righteous people are gentle peacemakers. 

Root Dress by Barb Hunt. Photographed at the Winnipeg Art Gallery.

In the comments on Sleeth’s article in the Washington Post people are very derisive of any person of faith who dares to say they want to protect trees or the environment.   They claim most religious people believe their god has provided the blessings of the natural world for them to dominate and exploit. One commentator cites the way former American Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt who was given his post by Donald Trump used Bible verses to justify policies he put in place that had potentially devastating consequences for the environment.

Poplar Woods by Lionel LeMoine Fitzgerald. Photographed at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. 

And here in Canada we have little reason to be smug about the attitude of our American neighbours. Ironically on the day before Arbor Day the government of Ontario announced it will end a program that aimed to plant 50 million trees in their province. 

Metchosin by Emily Carr. Photographed at the Winnipeg Art Gallery.

On the weekend just prior to Arbor Day Christians began their celebration of Easter, a time of new beginnings, new life and new hope.  Planting and caring for trees can be a way to celebrate all those things.

Other posts……….

Happy Earth Day

Imitating Emily

Two Trees

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The Women of the Easter Story

Station of the cross, Saint Symphorian church of Pfettisheim, Bas-Rhin, France.

Station of the Cross Saint Symphorian church of Pfettisheim, Bas-Rhin, France.

A large crowd trailed behind Jesus including many grief-striken women. But Jesus turned to them and said, “Do not weep for me.”- Luke 23:27-28

vladimir-borovikovsky-the-crucifixion-undated-e1276393643585

The Crucifixion by Vladimir Borovikovsky

Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister and Mary Magdalene.  John 19:25

The Three Marys at the Sepulcher by Peter Von Cornelius

On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb.  They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.

Holy Women at the Tomb by Peter Paul Rubens

While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them……

Three Marys at the Tomb by Sally K. Green

And one  said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead?  He is not here; he has risen!  Luke 24:1-6

Christ’s Appearance to Mary Magdalene After the Ressurection by Alexander Ivanov

At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.  He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.”  She turned toward him and cried out “Teacher.”- John 20:14-16

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Christian Easter Images Enriched

I photographed this painting Nuestro Senor el Desollado (Our Lord, The One Who is Flayed), 2004  by Paul Pletka at the Phoenix Art Gallery .  It depicts the staging of the crucifixion of Jesus traditionally done in Mexico during Lent. Interestingly in this painting the artist has mixed Catholic images with  images from ancient Mayan and Aztec religions, the religious traditions of Central America prior to the Spanish occupation.

Pletka’s painting reminds me of Parfleches for the Last Supper an artwork in the collection of the Winnipeg Art Gallery where indigenous artist Robert Houle uses images from his Anishinaabe spiritual heritage to represent each of the disciples who shared Jesus’ last meal before his death with him.  

Our understanding of the stories from our own faith heritage can be enriched when we open them to interpretation by those whose faith ancestry is different, and in the case of the heritage of these two artists,much older than our own.  

Other posts……..

Another Creation Story

Another Last Supper

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