Here is a fossil of a giant sea scorpion found in North American waters millions of years ago.
Here is indigenous artist Norval Morrisseau’s painting of the water panther god Misshipehu. It moved through the same waters as the ancient sea scorpion.
The two items are displayed near each other at the Art Gallery of Ontario. Can you see any resemblance?
Ojibwa in Paris
Art That Makes You Feel Sick
Filed under Art, Nature, Toronto
This unique installation at the Art Gallery of Ontario called Paris/Ojibwa is by artist Robert Houle. It is a moving memorial for Ojibwa dancers who died while entertaining the French court in 1845. The story starts with American artist George Catlin who traveled extensively in the west painting hundreds of portraits of indigenous people. He decided to bring his ‘Indian Gallery’ to Europe and display it there. He thought he might attract more viewers for his exhibit if he brought along an indigenous dance troupe organized by George Henry Maungwudaus an Ojibwa interpreter. The troupe performed in London and at the royal court in Paris where King Louis Philipe presented the dancers with medals. Unfortunately six of the troupe caught small pox in Europe. They died never to return to Canada.
Robert Houle has painted four of these ill-fated dancers, Maungwudaus’ wife Uh wis sig gee zig goo kway and three of her children and shows them on a return journey to Canada, a trip that because of their untimely deaths, they were never able to make themselves. Above the portraits are the names of the dancers and underneath each portrait is an illustration of the small pox virus that killed them. Robert Houle paints the portraits on the walls of a reconstructed Parisian salon. There is a bowl of sage on a pedestal at the front of the salon and you hear quiet drum beats as you view the installation.
Parfleches for the Last Supper 1983 by Robert Houle at the Winnipeg Art Gallery
I was drawn to Paris/Ojibwa because of its creator Robert Houle. We have an installation of his called Parfleches for the Last Supper on view at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. Many years ago I interviewed Mr. Houle for a Free Press column of mine. It was interesting to see a more current work of his, especially one that tells such a moving and tragic story.
Giving Slaves a Modern Humanity
Art That Makes You Feel Sick
Over the course of my life I have kept all kinds of journals. Some are in diaries and some are online in blog form. Others are photo books or scrapbooks. Some are collections of letters. I have several long shelves filled with notebooks of every size each one crammed with reflections, lists, cards, concert tickets, my newspaper articles, programs, souvenirs, poems and books reviews. Perhaps that’s why I was fascinated by this photograph of artist Meryl McMaster I saw recently at the Art Gallery of Ontario. Meryl is standing in the snow holding her journals. One for each year. She calls her piece Time’s Gravity because she realizes how quickly our time on earth passes and how scant an opportunity we have to preserve the memories of our sojourn here. She says the journals are a reminder of where she comes from. For each annual journal she has chosen a drawing for the spine that represents an important life event in that year. I stood in front of McMaster’s artwork for a long time trying to decipher each one. Was she representing the birth of a child, meeting an important person, going on an ocean voyage, learning to play the piano, an injury that had her on crutches, and a puzzling year that was hard to figure out?
Meryl got the idea for these symbols from ‘winter count drawings’ used by North American indigenous people to create a pictorial calendar for a community’s oral history. Meryl is a member of the Plains Cree Nation.
Meryl’s symbols had me thinking about what kind of symbols I might select to represent different years of my life.
Keeping a Record
Picasso’s Grandmother is Canadian
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
Zane Caplansky’s face which is featured on the front of the menus at his famous deli in Toronto might look familiar to you. That’s because Caplansky has been in movies, on television programs like Dragon’s Den, has a weekly radio show and a large Twitter following. Our son, whose work as a professional musician takes him to Toronto frequently, recommended Caplansky’s Delicatessen for lunch and he didn’t steer us wrong. The borscht had a tomato rather than a beet base. It was thick with vegetables and smoked meat bits and had a kind of sweetness about it which I loved.
My smoked turkey sandwich was thick with meat and I enjoyed trying some of the Caplansky signature mustards with it. By the way the beer at Caplansky’s is served with a pickle.
We ate on the patio and I had a great view of this mural of a young boy on a rooftop surveying the city. Loved the look of joy and wonder on his face. Art, great food, a meal shared with family equaled a perfect lunch!
A Bike Ride in Toronto
String Em Up at the Handlebar
Filed under Food, Toronto