Countless white ovals catching the light as they dangle from the ceiling on threads make up the art installation cloudscape by Hannah Claus now on display in Ekhardt Hall at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. A Queens University Journal article says cloudscape was inspired by a Haudenosaunee creation story. The Haudenosaunee or ‘people of the long house’ include the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, and Seneca. In the creation story Sky Woman comes down to earth from a world above. She then creates the land and everything that lives on it. Hannah Claus says she has tried to recreate the ethereal world where Sky Woman lived. What would it feel like to walk in a world like that? Hannah used an animated 3D computer program to help create cloudscape.
On the artouteast website Hannah says, “Clouds are basically masses of suspended drops of water in the sky, constantly shifting.” Her cloud art works express her interest in how all those microscopic drops come together to form different patterns and shapes. In an article on her website Hannah says clouds suggest creativity and community to her.
In her website biography Hannah compares her suspended art to wampum belts. Wampum means ‘river made by hand.’ On the Haudenosaunee website there is a detailed description of how wampum beads were made from clam shells and then strung together to form wampum belts. A wampum belt served as a sign that you held a certain office like chief or clan mother and was passed on to new officers. The beads on the belt represented different events in the history of the office and could be interpreted by specially trained warriors familiar with their nation’s past. Wampum beads can be traced back to the pre-colonial time of Hiawatha. Hiawatha’s wampum belt contained 6,574 beads. Hannah Claus, the creator of cloudscape studied at the Ontario College of Art and Design and received her masters at Concordia University. She is Mohawk from the Bay of Quinte on the north shore of Lake Ontario. Her work has been exhibited in Europe, South America and Central America. She lives and works in Montreal.
On Instagram Hannah is known as Cloudmaker. Very appropriate!
Our Heads in the Clouds
Creation of the World
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
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
He’s toasting us with a cocktail. This interesting plate is part of the current Picasso exhibit at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. It is titled Cavalier Faun. The creature on the horse is a mythical faun, half goat and half human. If you look closely you can see his horns. One of the participants on a tour I led said the faces around the edge depict the crowd seated around the bull fighting ring.
With his drink glass tilted jauntily in one hand the faun isn’t as serious a picador as one might expect to see at a bullfight. His eyes are looking at us the viewers, rather than straight ahead to see where the horse is going. One gallery visitor on a tour I was leading said the line at the bottom of the horse makes it look almost like a toy rocking horse. They thought the horse looked a little bull legged.
The design The Cavalier Faun served Picasso well. He used it on many plain white earthenware plates and also on a series of gold medallions.
Picasso was born in Spain and attended many bullfights. His fascination with the sport is evidenced in other works currently on display at the Winnipeg Art Gallery like the lino cut above called Le Banderilla.
Picasso Not Really a Family Man
“Are there any hidden messages in the paintings?” I was starting a tour with some elementary school students at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. I told them we would be like detectives or explorers looking for interesting details in the art. One girl put up her hand to ask if I knew of any hidden or secret messages in the paintings. Luckily I had an idea where we could find one.
Women in a Hat With Flowers by Picasso 1944
As we viewed this painting Picasso made of his lover Dora Maar I asked the children if they could find Dora’s name hidden in the painting. It didn’t take them long to pick out the four letters. Check out the arrows.
The upper case D
The letter o
The cursive r
The letter A two ways- a lower case backwards one to the right or an uppercase sideways one to the left
The children thought it was very cool Picasso hid Dora’s name in his painting of her. It got them searching for hidden messages in every piece of art. The intense looking that inspired helped them discover lots of other interesting things about the artwork they viewed.
What in the World is That?
Plants That Talked to Me
Two Artists -Me and My Grandson
They were from Shanghai and Beijing and Shenzhen and Kunming and many other places I have visited. I had the pleasure of taking a Chinese community group of Winnipeg residents on a tour of the Picasso exhibit at the Winnipeg Art Gallery last week. I lived in Hong Kong for six years and so it was interesting to find out where people in the group came from and to compare notes about their home cities. I had visited most of them.
It was my first tour with a translator and so I had to give information in small bits and then wait while it was translated into Mandarin. Hearing Mandarin spoken again, and talking with the tour participants about places that I had come to know, made me nostalgic. It was a nice feeling though. I’m not sorry I live in Canada now but chatting with my tour participants from China brought back fond memories of the time I spent in Asia.
Dancing in Shangri-La
Ai Wei Wei
Stick Stick Men
A new display of Inuit artwork on the mezzanine level of the Winnipeg Gallery includes this popular piece called Migration by Joe Talirunili. It tells the story of a harrowing time in Joe’s childhood. I found many different versions of the story on the internet but here is my compilation. Joe and his family and some friends were going back home on their sleds after a celebration on an island in Hudson’s Bay. The ice under them began to break up and they were trapped on an ice floe. They had to work fast before the ice floe broke up further, but they managed to use the wood from their sleds and some seal skins to make a boat that got them to shore. The shoreline was made up of very steep rock and so they secured their boat with a rope and waited. The wind blew incredibly hard for almost a week making it too dangerous for them to leave. They nearly starved to death before the weather let up and they were able to find their way home. Some people lost their lives at various points in the tragic story. Joe made some thirty carvings of this adventure all called Migration. One of Joe’s Migration sculptures was featured on a Canadian stamp in 1976 the year he died, and in 2006 another sold at auction for $278,000 the highest price ever for a single Inuit artwork.
Other posts about Inuit artists………
Getting to Know Oviloo
Transferring the Real to the Unreal
Falling in Love