Did you know slavery was legal in Canada til 1834? The ad above was one of many placed in Canadian newspapers by owners looking for their runaway slaves. In the Art Gallery of Ontario ‘s exhibit Every. Now. Then: Reframing Nationhood artists Camille Turner and Camal Pirbhai have tried to restore humanity to these runaway slaves by dressing them up and photographing them in modern day costumes that compare to the 1800s style clothes the slaves are described as wearing in the ads.
This woman is sheathed in a calico gown, holding a silk hankie and wearing a dress hat just like the runaway slave described in the ad. But the black woman in the photograph is free and no one’s slave. Camille Turner and Camal Pirbhai hope portraying the runaway slave this way will make people more aware that slavery was part of Canada’s history.
A Man Affectionately Deplored By His Wife
A Black and White Religion
Don’t Breathe, Don’t Drink is the name of this disturbing art work by Ruth Cuthand. I saw it last week at the Art Gallery of Ontario. Ruth says the kind of blue tarp which acts as a table cloth in her art piece was used for the roofs of hastily constructed shacks she saw First Nations people living in after their homes had been condemned because of black mould in the dry wall. The glasses of water on the table contain plastic and beaded representations of the different kinds of bacteria and parasites found in the water on 94 northern reserves that have boil water advisories. Ruth has put some of the bacteria filled water into baby bottles to remind us that children may be drinking this contaminated water too.
I have read a few articles lately about how art can help to bring about social change. I hope Ruth Cuthand’s Don’t Breathe Don’t Drink does just that.
Whale Bone Sculptures
What is the Doctrine of Discovery?
Canadian basketball player jerseys matched with fancy skirts are featured in a work called One of the Boys created by sculptor Esmaa Mohamoud. They are part of the exhibit Every. Now. Then: Reframing Nationhood at the Art Gallery of Ontario. The artist says as a child she felt very gender fluid and loved nothing more than playing basketball with her brothers. She remembers being told to take off her Vince Carter Raptors’ jersey and put on a dress. She didn’t want to, so she slipped her basketball jersey over her dress. Esmaa says she hopes all kinds of diversity will be accepted in Canada. She believes our differences shouldn’t scare us but draw us closer together.The same artist Esmaa Mohamoud created these thirty concrete basketballs for a work titled Heavy, Heavy Hoop Dreams. They serve as a metaphor for the deflated dreams of black men in North America. Esmaa says while only 30 men each year make it into the NBA; many black young men grow up confident that one of those 30 will be them so they fail to make a back up plan for their life. She says that creates a real weight for black males but also makes them fragile which is why some of the basketballs are dented or not inflated. We might not readily associate basketball with art but in her two pieces Esmaa Mohamoud uses items from the sport to create artworks that engage us and make us think.
Gender Neutral Washrooms
Seeing Steve Nash
Five Things About Selma
Britta B’s piece Fluke which I saw at the Art Gallery of Ontario last week is a good example of what an affirming experience it can be to view art. Britta is a spoken word artist and slam poetry champion from the Regent Park neighborhood of Toronto.
Her work Fluke consists of a large glass jar sitting on an old ink stained school desk. You are invited to put your hand in the jar and take out one of the folded colorful papers inside.You read the affirmation printed on the card and then refold it and return it to the jar. While you look at Fluke you can listen to Britta reciting a poem which contains lines like ……
You are not a fluke. You know everybody’s got their insecurities, their flaws, and disadvantages, but nobody’s got you. You are not a fluke.
Artist Britta B thinks most people lack affirmation. They do too much negative self talk. She wants everyone to know they deserve to be cared for. Britta B says we have to keep reminding ourselves of all our good qualities.
Katherena Vermette on the Wall
Ai Wei Wei
Filed under Art, Reflections
What would it have been like for a young woman who is an aspiring artist to be in Paris at the same time as Pablo Picasso? You can find out by reading The Art of Rebellion by Brenda Joyce Leahy. There’s a Picasso show at the Winnipeg Art Gallery right now and The Art of Rebellion would be an interesting book to read before or after visiting the exhibit.
Pablo Picasso liked his women “short and submissive” but Gabrielle the heroine of The Art of Rebellion is anything but submissive! She rebels against her parents’ plans to arrange a marriage for her and runs off to Paris to try to fulfill her dream of being an artist. This was a positively scandalous choice for a woman at the turn of the century when the artistic community was almost exclusively male and a marriage to someone wealthy or titled was considered the height of success for girls. Brenda Leahy has done her research and paints a realistic picture of Paris at the time. She doesn’t shy away from having her heroine face the grim reality of surviving there on her own.
Women in a Hat With Flowers by Picasso 1944 is one of the paintings in the current Picasso exhibition at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. The Art of Rebellion by Brenda Joyce Leahy has a woman in a hat on its front cover too!
You can even find a hint in one scene in The Art of Rebellion that Gabrielle actually encounters Picasso at an artist’s hangout in Paris. I’m a feminist and an art lover like Gabrielle so even though The Art of Rebellion was written for a young adult audience I enjoyed it too.
Launching Not One Book But Three
A New Book Set Right Here in Winnipeg
Deeds are not accomplished in a few days, or in a few hours, a century is only a spoke in the wheel of everlasting time. – Louis Riel
This quote in the shape of a wheel is displayed as a touchstone at the heart of a groundbreaking exhibit at the Art Gallery of Ontario called Every.Now.Then: Reframing Nationhood. Louis Riel who spoke the words that make up the wheel design was a Metis leader who fought to preserve Metis culture and land rights. He was accused of high treason by Canada’s first prime minister Sir John A. MacDonald, convicted and hung.
Entrance to the Every. Now. Then. exhibit -Art Gallery of Ontario
This year Canada celebrates its 150th birthday. The Art Gallery of Ontario wanted to give voice to groups like the Metis in Canada who might feel they have little to celebrate. The exhibit Every.Now.Then: Reframing Nationhood gives Metis, First Nations, black, Asian, transgender and other marginalized Canadians a place to tell their story.
Metis men with a Red River Cart, a mode of transportation for the Canadian prairies invented by the Metis. Could this be the kind of wheel Louis Riel was envisioning when he talked about the spokes in the wheel of time?
I spent an enthralling afternoon in Every.Now.Then: Reframing Nationhood and will be doing blog posts about what I saw and learned in the coming weeks. One hopes the exhibit and others like it will help to speed up Riel’s one wheel spoke forward a century pace towards greater inclusion and equality for all Canadians.
A Controversial Statue
Treaty One Land
Manitoba is Metis
In 1986 when the curators of the Picasso Museum in Antibes France decided to paint a memorial artwork to honour Picasso, a Canadian woman was chosen as one of four artists from around the world to help create the memorial. Her name was Daphne Odjig.
Daphne died last year at age 97 after a remarkable career. She was dubbed Picasso’s Grandmother by fellow indigenous artist Norval Morrisseau. Daphne discovered the paintings of Picasso in the 1950s and carefully studied and analyzed his work. Picasso upon seeing Daphne’s work at an exhibition called her ‘a remarkable artist’.
Tribute to Picasso by Daphne Odjig
Daphne is sometimes referred to as the Grandmother of Indigenous Art. Joseph Sanchez says Daphne was indeed a ‘grandmother’ figure to many indigenous artists. “Her energy guided us,” he says. She also gave indigenous artists financial support by buying their paintings for her gallery.
I always end my Picasso tours at the Winnipeg Art Gallery by going to look at Daphne’s painting Friends Rejoicing in our collection and tell my tour participants about Canada’s Grandmother Picasso.
The Song My Paddle Sings
An Award Winner Inspires Teens
A Different View of the World