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 artwork 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 Indigenous people living in after their homes had been condemned because of black mould in the drywall. 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. I saw the exhibit on my recent visit to the gallery. 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
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
Two articles in last Saturday’s Toronto Globe and Mail struck a chord with me.
The first was about a new ballet that premieres today at the Art Gallery of Ontario called The Dreamers Ever Leave You. The ballet choreographed by Robert Binet is inspired by the current Lawren Harris exhibit at the AGO called The Idea of North orginally curated by American actor and comedian Steve Martin. Binet’s dancers will move between three different stages at the AGO and the audience will also have a chance to see the Harris paintings that inspired the ballet.
We have quite a number of Lawren Harris paintings on display at the Winnipeg Art Gallery right now in our Group of Seven exhibit. As I give kids tours of the gallery could I get them to come up with a dance to go along with one of our Harris paintings?
Another Saturday Globe and Mail article celebrated Sonja Bata who founded the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto. She and her husband Thomas were responsible for the success of the Bata Shoe empire which once owned some 1700 stores world wide. Sonja just celebrated her 90th birthday and her museum marked its 20th anniversary last year. I was drawn to the article about Sonja and her museum because Dave and I once had the pleasure of visiting the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto. It was so surprisingly interesting! We discovered that shoes can be works of art too.
Almost Touching Justin Bieber’s Shoes
Two Very Different Members of the Group of Seven
A Good Understanding
We had lunch on the roof top of the Hush Restaurant in Toronto. Our waitress was from Newfoundland originally and was efficient and interesting to talk to.
Won Ton Chicken Tacos
Pear and Goat Cheese Salad
Faith for Free
Almost Touching Justin Bieber’s Shoe
A Fun Night in Toronto
Our bed and breakfast in Toronto was housed in an art gallery. We had our breakfasts in the downstairs gallery surrounded by the unique art on exhibit. We slept in one of the five clean and minimilastic rooms upstairs each with its own ensuite and decorated with great artwork.
There was even artwork in the stairwells and around the front door.
We discovered to our delight that Holly Lee and Lee Ka-sing the art gallery and bed and breakfast owners were from Hong Kong and had moved to Toronto in 1997. We compared notes about Hong Kong where we also lived for six years. Holly and Lee bought the Index Art Gallery in 2006 when it was a convenience store and turned it into a popular gallery space and bed and breafast.
There were all kinds of interesting art pieces on display but the gallery specializes in these tiny minature canvases.
At breakfast we chatted with the set designer of a play orginally produced in Belgium which was just about to open at a Toronto theatre. The play was the autobiography of a young Iranian woman and we met her one morning too. Unfortunately their play Reason to Talk was opening after we left Toronto.
I found a book called Forty Poems in our room. It was created by our host Lee and had many photo poems about China and Hong Kong that were fascinating.
This one was titled The Hero Playing With a Red Rubber Band.
Our room was named The Genki which is a Japanese word for friendly and lively. The Index Art Gallery was in a lively neighbourhood and both our hosts and fellow guests were very friendly.
We will definitely stay at the Index again on future trips to Toronto.
Retirement Advice From New Zealand
Not the Harlem I Expected
Hawaii Two Very Different Weeks