Category Archives: Art

Women Painting Men

There’s a brilliant new exhibition at the Winnipeg Art Gallery called Defying Convention. It features female Canadian artists who were defying convention in the first half of the twentieth century by trying to earn a place for themselves in an art world dominated and controlled by men. 

Western Industries (Steel Pour, Vulcan Iron Works- Winnipeg ) c. 1939 by Georgie Wilcox

Western Industries (Steel Pour, Vulcan Iron Works- Winnipeg ) c. 1939 by Georgie Wilcox- an iron works would have been considered rather a hazardous place for a woman to be painting in the 1930s

This is a rich exhibition that I absolutely love so it will probably give rise to any number of blog posts but this one was inspired by a group of grade eight boys I was touring through Defying Convention. I told the boys the exhibit was a collection of work by women artists and they pointed to the painting above and asked, “Why are there men in the paintings then?”  I had to clarify that the artists and not the subjects of the paintings were women, but those boys got me thinking of how men are portrayed by women in the exhibit. 

The Village Blacksmith by Marion Nelson Hooker 1905

The Village Blacksmith by Marion Nelson Hooker 1905

It probably would not have been considered very ‘proper’ in 1905 for a woman to paint a half nude blacksmith especially for Marion Nelson Hooker who was very active in the traditional Anglican church. Marion Nelson Hooker did paint this brawny blacksmith when she was still a single woman. In 1907 she moved from Ontario to Selkirk Manitoba to marry a widower with six children. A condition of the marriage was that she would be allowed to continue her painting. Her new husband provided her with a studio for doing just that.

At the UN by Pegi Nicol MacLeod c.1945

Pegi Nicol MacLeod was a Canadian painter living in New York City  when Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson commissioned her to do a painting of the United Nations General Assembly.  Pearson was very involved with the United Nations after World War II, serving as the President of the General Assembly and earning a Nobel Prize for his work as a peacekeeper.  A similar United Nations painting of Pegi Nicol MacLeod’s  sold recently at the Mayberry Gallery in Winnipeg.   Pearson commissioned the United Nations paintings so you might think he would have asked  Pegi Nicol MacLeod to paint him at the speaker’s podium, but the person at the podium in this one looks suspiciously like a woman.  I know this painting must have been done in 1947 because that is when the second session of the United Nations General Assembly was held in Flushing Meadow New York in an old exhibition hall. The third session was held there too in the fall of 1949 but by then Pegi Nicol Macleod had died.  Pierre Berton gives a detailed and colorful description of this meeting in a November 1947 article in Macleans magazine. The photo in the magazine matches Pegi’s painting.  In the sea of men she has painted Pegi Nicol MacLeod appears to have included three women- one on the podium and two to the far right.  According to Pierre Berton’s article the wives of many of the delegates were in attendance and the ushers were women but the head of the Indian delegation was also a woman Mrs. Vijaya Lakasmi Pandit. Could she be one of the two women on the right or is she at the podium? Pierre Berton also mentions the names of some female journalists at the meeting. 

The Boy With a Red Cap by Lucille Casey MacArthur 1891-1898

This boy looks like he is must be in his late teens. He has a classic face, seems to be bare chested and his hair and cap have a a softer quality about them in contrast to his rather sharp features.  The Boy With A Red Cap was painted by Lucille Casey MacArthur who moved to Winnipeg from Mississippi with her husband in 1884. She studied in Europe and on her return to Winnipeg held an exhibition that some say was well attended because of Lucille’s nude section of paintings. She was definitely a defier of convention. 

You don’t want to miss the Defying Convention exhibit. This blog is just a tiny taste of the variety of pieces on display by nearly forty different women brave and determined enough to make their way in what was definitely a man’s world or art in the early 20th century. 

Other posts………

Children Are Going To Love Her

Klee Wyck

Transferring the Real to the Unreal


Filed under Art, WInnipeg Art Gallery

Bold and Beautiful

“Bold, beautiful, graphic, eye-catching, detailed, interesting and colorful”  are just a few of the words a group of touring high school students used to describe the new exhibit of paintings by Norval Morrisseau at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. 

Grandfather Teaching Grandson by Norval Morriseau

Grandfather Teaching Grandson by Norval Morrisseau – 1990

Morrisseau was born on an Anishinaabe reserve in northern Ontario in 1931 and raised by his maternal grandparents. His grandfather was a shaman who taught him the traditions and stories of his people.  Morrisseau had six years of formal education, two in a residential school. 

Shaman communication by Norval Morrisseau

Shaman Communication by Norval Morrisseau- 1990

Morrisseau adopted the name Copper Thunderbird as his artistic career began and always signed his paintings with that name.  Some accounts say he was given the powerful name by a medicine woman or shaman as he was trying to recover from a serious illness. Other sources say Morrisseau had a dream in which Manitou came to him and performed a naming ceremony, calling him Thunderbird. 

Pale Horse and RIder protected by Thunderbird Norval Morrisseau

Pale Horse and Rider Protected by Thunderbird- 1989

Morrisseau didn’t have any artistic training but developed his art skills on his own. At age 25 Morrisseau was diagnosed with tuberculosis and went to the Fort William Sanatorium where he met his future wife Harriet. They had seven children but later separated. 

Power of the Spirit of Manitou by Norval Morrisseau

Power of the Spirit of Manitou by Norval Morrisseau 1989

Toronto art dealer Jack Pollock saw Morrisseau’s work and was instrumental in exposing it to a wider audience. Morrisseau is sometimes called the Picasso of the North because like Picasso, Norval Morrisseau could draw spontaneously, never lifting his pencil from the paper until the image was complete. 

Fish WIth Two Spirit Helpers by Norval Morrisseau – 1990

Norval became the originator of the Woodlands School of Art using images similar to prehistoric artwork found on rocks or on birch bark scrolls. He is said to have created some 10,000 artworks in his lifetime.

norval morrisseauCaught in a hotel fire at age 41 Morrisseau suffered burns to 75% of his body. He struggled with alcoholism and with Parkinson’s disease and had a stroke at age 65. Yet despite all these setbacks he continued to produce his unique and popular work. 

norval morrisseau

Unity by Norval Morrisseau- 1985

Morrisseau was awarded the Order of Canada in 1978. In 2006 the National Gallery did a large show of his lifetime of work. It was the first time an indigenous artist had a solo show there.  He died in Nanaimo BC in 2007 at age 76.

His bold beautiful paintings will be on display at the Winnipeg Art Gallery till September.  You don’t want to miss seeing them!

Other posts………


Picasso’s Grandmother is Canadian

Ojibwa in Paris

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American Gothic

American Gothic by Grant Wood

Grant Wood was featured on the CBS Sunday Morning Show yesterday.  If you are like me the Grant Wood painting you are most familiar with is American Gothic.  I was surprised to learn that the models for the painting were Grant Wood’s sister Nan and his dentist Dr. Byron McKeeby. For some reason I had assumed they were a real  husband and wife. Nan later insisted that her brother meant this to be a portrait of a father and daughter.  One detail I had never noticed is how the image of the pitchfork in the man’s hand is repeated in his overalls. The plants on the porch of the house behind the couple in American Gothic are the same as the one in his mother’s hand and just behind her in this portrait Grant Wood painted of his mother called Woman With Plants.  The plant in her hand is called mother-in-law’s tongue and the plant behind her is a beefsteak begonia. Also notice that the cameo his mother is wearing in this painting looks very similar to the one his sister is wearing in American Gothic. Their aprons and sweaters are also of a similar style. 

The house Wood used as a model for his painting is now a national historic site. It is in Eldon Iowa and was built by Charles Dibble in 1881.  Grant Wood was driving through Eldon Iowa with a fellow painter in 1930, saw the house and sketched it. Later he created the portrait with his models in his Cedar Rapids Iowa studio.  The top window of the house looks like a church window and was ordered by the original owner from the Sears catalogue. About 15,000 people a year visit the home and many pose for a photo in clothing similar to that worn by the couple in the original painting.
Dave and I saw American Gothic when we visited the Art Institute of Chicago a number of years ago. There are questions about what kind of message Grant Wood was sending with this painting.   Was it a satire of rural small town American life? Was it a mourning portrait?  Wood’s father died when he was only ten years old. Was it a symbol of the steadfast American spirit? 

Interestingly in March when we were in Portugal I tried my hand at doing a quick sketch version of my own of American Gothic for one of my daily art exercises. 

Grant Wood Self- Portrait

The CBS Sunday Morning Show segment was terrific and I learned so much about Grant Wood’s life and later checked out more than a hundred paintings of his on the Wiki Art site. He created many other portraits besides  American Gothic.  This one called Plaid Sweater is one of my favorites. Grant Wood was a fascinating man and artist even though most folks only know him because of American Gothic

Other posts……….

Don’t Be Scared to be Creative

She’s Real

Picasso’s Grandmother is Canadian

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Linda’s Garden

linda fairfield in the plantsMeet Linda Fairfield, artist and plant lover who set out to create an illustration of every single wildflower in Manitoba.  She didn’t achieve her goal before she died last June but she left a treasure trove of absolutely lovely and unique paintings of our province’s native flowers. She called her collection  ‘The Garden.”  An exhibit of work from “The Garden”  is now on display at the Winnipeg Art Gallery.  It was curated by Nicole Fletcher. 

fairfield prarie crocusI was drawn to Linda’s beautiful and delicate depiction of Manitoba’s floral emblem.  I have learned that sadly the prairie crocus is dwindling in numbers in our province. 

saxifrageLinda traveled the province to discover wild flowers. She illustrated a book by Karen Johnson that catalogued the wildflowers of Churchill and the Hudson’ Bay Region.

fairfield wild parsnipSome of Linda’s illustrations highlight the parts of the plants- the leaves, blooms and roots.

fair field prairie cloverIn others Linda chooses to include a sketch of the habitat where the flower grows, perhaps where she discovered it.Quite a number of Linda’s illustrations are displayed alongsidespecimens of the flower from the University of Manitoba’s collection  The Plants of Manitoba. 

fairfield golden rodThere are three special displays in the exhibit.  fairfield prickly pear cactusOne features Manitoba flowers that are edible. 

fairfield wild cucumberAnother flowers that are toxic and poisonous. 

fairfield lady slipperAnd finally one that showcases the beauty of Manitoba’s more than forty native species of orchids. 

fairfield wild roseLinda’s obituary in the Toronto Globe and Mail says Linda worked at her wildflower project over a fifty year period.  The recent donation of 233 of her illustrations to the Winnipeg Art Gallery by her family insures that Linda’s work will be treasured and appreciated by Manitobans for decades to come. 

If you are longing to see the wild flowers of Manitoba bloom and spring just isn’t coming fast enough for you head over to the Winnipeg Art Gallery and get your flower fix in Linda’s Garden. 

Other posts…….

Moose Lake’s Wild Flowers

Portugal in Bloom

Flowers of Costa Rica

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Filed under Art, Nature, WInnipeg Art Gallery

Artist’s Prayer

My writer’s group has been working our way through Julia Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way.  In the chapter we discussed on Thursday Julia had included an Artist’s Prayer and suggested we pray it each day.  Julia’s prayer didn’t really resonate with me and since she also encouraged us to write our own prayers, I did. 

Spirit of life and love

I see evidence of your creativity all around me

I know you have blessed me with a creative spirit too

I want to discover and acknowledge that creative spirit

Give me the courage to explore my creativity and the wisdom to channel it

Make me open to new ideas and new ways of thinking

Help me move forward

Secure in my wholeness 

Trusting my inner spirit

Confident about what I can become  

Anticipating what I will create

And bold about sharing my creations

Help me encourage creativity in others

By being someone who nurtures and affirms

I need to remember your spirit is with me always

And that I am loved and I am worthy of love

May my creativity shine and be life-giving

-MaryLou Driedger

Julia’s book The Artist’s Way is helping me realize how my creative life and my spiritual life are intertwined.  

silver letter holder from grandma schmidt

Silver ink well I inherited from my maternal grandmother Annie Jantz Schmidt. Grandma received it as a Christmas gift from her sister Tilly in 1911. My grandmother expressed her creativity in many ways. She had beautiful penmanship, hooked wool rugs, designed rag rugs, did oil paintings and sang duets in church with her husband. I also have a beautiful lace tablecloth she made. 

Other posts……..

A Prayer for a Golf Tournament

A Prayer for the New Year

A Journalist’s Prayer





Filed under Art, Religion

I’m Trying To Draw Cartoons

I’m trying to draw cartoons.  I was inspired by Canadian author Carrie Snyder who has been sketching a four frame cartoon every day in 2018.  She is a professional writer, not a professional artist but is exploring her creativity by doing quick daily cartoons.  In one of them she reminds us we don’t have to be technically skilled to be an artist. 

My writers’ group has been reading the book The Artists’ Way and it encourages us to explore our creativity in new ways, by stretching ourselves.  If you have been following my blog you know that during our two months in Portugal I’ve been trying to do eight things everyday to improve myself as a writer. I’ve written about five of those things – the sixth is drawing.  I’ve done a sketch or a drawing everyday, but the last couple of weeks I’ve been trying to do those drawings in the form of cartoons.  Some of them tell about experiences I’ve had. Here’s one. 

Some of them summarize things I’m learning.  My writers group listened to a Ted Talk by Brene Brown. This is how I summarized it in a cartoon. 

I think drawing cartoons can help me become a better writer because it makes me  think about experiences and ideas in new ways and forces me to summarize them in just a couple phrases. 

Note: I have written about six of the daily things I did to work on my writing skills during my time in Portugal. The seventh is to write these blog posts everyday and the eighth is working on the books I make for my grandsons.  On this holiday I’ve been creating a songbook for my younger grandson’s upcoming birthday. 

Other posts………

When Did You Stop Drawing?

Don’t Be Scared To Be Creative

Meet You at the Folio

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A Pregnant Mary and A Mary With Knives in Her Heart

How often have you seen an artwork where Mary, Jesus’ mother is visibly pregnant? We saw two such images of a pregnant Mary in the Cathedral of Évora . Our tour guide Maria told us representations of Mary where she is visibly pregnant are rare.  So it is significant the biggest cathedral in Evora, Portugal has two. The one in the main part of the Cathedral of Évora  dates back to the 1400s.  The gothic statue of a visibly pregnant Mary is the only example found within Portugal. Couples wanting to have a child, and grandparents wanting to have grandchildren often come to pray at this image of Mary. 

The other pregnant Mary statue is in the cloister area of the Evora Cathedral

The cathedral was built on the site of a mosque from the time of the Moorish occupation and it may be the early priests hungry for converts from the local pagans thought they might appeal to their ritual worship of fertility goddesses by focusing on a fertile Mary.  Our guide Maria told us Mary is a very important religious figure here in the Alentejo area of Portugal.

I pose with our guide Maria in front of the Evora Cathedral-both of our names have their origin in the name Mary. 

Maria said it seems every girl born in the Alentejo area of Portugal has some form of  Mary as one of her given names.  Maria is the most popular one and even boys are frequently given the name Maria as a second name. 

In St. Francis Church in Evora we saw a statue of Mary with seven knives stuck into her chest four on the right and three on the left. This depiction of Mary illustrates the seven times Mary experienced deep sorrow because of Jesus.  The first is recorded in Luke 2:35 when Jesus is a baby and the old man Simeon in the temple tells Mary the grief she will experience because of her son will pierce her like a sword. Mary will also be terrified for her child’s safety when she and Joseph must flee to Egypt and again when she loses Jesus in Jerusalem when he is twelve.

A statue of Jesus carrying his cross is right beside Mary in the St. Francis Church

The next three sorrows all have to do with Jesus’ crucifixion -seeing him walk to Calvary, hung on the cross and having his side pierced. The final sorrow is witnessing his burial. 

Right near one of the pregnant statues of Mary in the Cathedral of Évora  is this marble depiction of Mary at the cross with John

Both the statues of the pregnant and sorrowing Mary reminded me of something I read long ago in Michele Landsberg’s book Women and Children First.  She says you don’t know real fear till you begin to fear what might happen to your child. She writes…..“it is at the very moment we give birth, that we first begin to truly understand and fear death.”  I think that fear for your child never leaves a mother’s heart.

Other posts………

God of Eve and God of Mary

The Family of Jesus Portrayed in a Controversial Way

The Magi Got Me Into Trouble

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