Category Archives: WInnipeg Art Gallery

That Changes Everything

I was giving a tour at the Winnipeg Art Gallery to a group of young people who have faced some difficult challenges in the past and are part of a program that is trying to help them set their lives on a positive course.  In our Skylight area we had an exhibition of wall hangings by skilled artists from Baker Lake in Nunavut.  As we entered the exhibit area I gave each young person two different colored cards.  I asked them to place one color under a wall hanging they really liked and another under their least favorite in the exhibit.  As we walked around looking at their choices I told them a little bit about the artists.  

Untitled wall hanging by Marion Tuuluq 1985

One young man had indicated his least favorite wall hanging was one of flowers done by Marion Tuupluq.   It was too simplistic for him.  

Marion Tuuluq in a jacket she designed

I showed him two of Marion’s other pieces and then told him a little bit about her life.  Her mother died giving birth to her, her father committed suicide when she was ten, her first husband died as a young man and she lost twelve of her sixteen children to accidents and starvation and other illnesses.  I told him Marion had only started becoming an artist at age 57 and managed to gain a name for herself in the art world. 

The young man who had picked her wall hanging as his least favorite said, ” That changes everything! I feel terrible about choosing her as my least favorite.  Now that I know about her life I admire her and I think what she has done is amazing.”  The young man who had shared some sad things about his own life with me felt a sense of kinship with Marion and it changed his impression of her art. 

Picasso’s portrait of 17 year old Marie Therese Walter

This is not the first time that has happened on tours I have given.  I remember a group of grade twelve students who said they had thought Picasso was great when we began our tour of an exhibit of his work.  But when they found out about his extra-martial sexual relationship with a teenage girl and saw the way women were portrayed as submissive objects in some of his rather violent sketches they changed their minds and told me their appreciation for Picasso had been diminshed as they learned about his life. 

Can you separate your appreciation for art or music or literature from your knowledge of the creator’s life?  

Other posts……..

Creating Beauty

I’m Shattered

Picasso – Not Really A Family Man



Filed under Art, WInnipeg Art Gallery

A Family Affair

Meet Jessie Oonark a talented and influential Canadian Inuit artist. Born in 1906 she spent most of her life in the Back River area of Nunavut leading a traditional hunter-nomadic existence moving from summer fishing camps to winter caribou hunting camps, housed in igloos and skin tents. In the late 1950s starvation forced her family to move to Baker Lake. Here she launched her artistic career and with the promotion help of a series of arts and crafts officers her wall hangings, prints and drawings received growing recognition and became widely exhibited. Jessie died in 1985 and the following year the Winnipeg Art Gallery mounted a retrospective of her artwork with a major touring exhibition and a catalogue.  Currently one of Jessie’s colorful wall hangings is displayed in the Skylight area of the Winnipeg Art Gallery as part of the exhibit called Nivinngajuliaat which means ‘wall hanging’ in Inuktitut.  Jessie’s wall hanging is full of faces of people talking.  Some of them are in conversation with others. 

Although Jessie is certainly a super star in the world of Inuit art all eight of her children are also gifted artists in their own right.  In fact three of them have wall hangings on view at the Winnipeg Art Gallery right now along with their mother.  This untitled work from 1977 was created by Jessie’s daughter Victoria Mamnguqsualuk Kayuryuk. It explores the relationship between people and animals.  Victoria died in 2016.  This untitled work from 1974 was stitched by Jessie’s daughter Miriam Qiyuk. It has both people and animals but their worlds are separated.  Miriam also died in 2016. This hanging from 1992 is called Travelling on the Land.  It is by another one of Jessie’s daughters Mary Yuusipik.  Mary has included a rainbow and a smiling sun.  She shows women walking with their babies on their backs, a person building an inukshuk, dogs hunting a caribou and a bird diving at people who are trying to steal its eggs.  Mary Yuusipik lived a year longer than her sisters Victoria and Miriam but she died in 2017.

If you visit the Winnipeg Art Gallery to see our exhibit Nivinngajuliaat you will have a chance to explore the work of a talented family- Jessie Oonark and her three daughters Victoria, Miriam and Mary. 

Other posts……..

Creating Beauty

And Mary You’ve Seen Hard Times


Filed under Art, WInnipeg Art Gallery

Oh What Fun!

During the holidays the Winnipeg Art Gallery ran one day camp experiences for children.  I was lucky enough to be in charge of giving the kids tours of the galleries on a couple of days.  Oh what fun!

Toppakou by Takashi Iwasaki 2015

Inspired by the work of Takashi Iwasaki in The Behind Closed Doors exhibitwe made our own abstract creations out of felt shapes.  Inspired by the elegant pottery of Robert Archambeau we made some pottery of our own.  

vista de instalacao by Robert Taite -2018

Inspired by Robert Taite’s installation the children created a maze like piece of art with wooden blocks and then walked through it.  

Clouds, Lake Superior- by Lawren Harris 1923

Inspired by works from the Group of Seven hanging on the wall in the Salon exhibit we  looked carefully at lots of works by the Group of Seven and tried to organize them into seasonal categories.

Beautiful Young Mummer in Margaret Feltham’s House by David Blackwood 1985

 Inspired by the beautiful prints of Newfoundland mummers by David Blackwood we played a hide and seek kind of game by dressing up as mummers ourselves.

Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Indians from A-Z by Robert Houle 1985

Inspired by a Robert Houle installation in the 80s Image exhibit the children organized names of First Nations alphabetically and we talked about some of the unique characteristics of the various groups. 

Near the Close of A Stormy Day by Homer Watson 1884

Inspired by a painting done by Homer Watson we created a storm of our own using musical instruments. 

Marion Tuuluq in a jacket she designed

Inspired by the beautiful wall hangings of Marion Tuu’luq the children drew images of their own. 

Lake Trout by Marion Tuuluq -1973

Untitled wall hanging by Marion Tuuluq 1985

Thirty Faces by Marion Tuuluq 1974

Oh what fun we had with children at the Winnipeg Art Gallery during the holiday season!

Other posts………

What Talent!

Imitating Emily

Oh To Be A Kid at the Fringe Festival

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Filed under Art, Childhood, WInnipeg Art Gallery

Mummering With A Great Canadian Artist

The Mummers Song written by Bud Davidge and illustrated by Ian Wallace

I learned about mummering from this children’s book which I shared with my class every year when I was an elementary school teacher.  It told the story of Newfoundland folks dressing up in disguise during the Christmas holidays and going to the homes of friends and family.

Illustration by Ian Wallace from The Mummers’ Song

Once the identity of the costumed guests had been ascertained they were invited to stay a while to sing and dance and eat and visit. The mummers disguised themselves with what was on hand at home, often stuffing their pants with pillows, wearing big hats and putting lace curtains or table cloths over their faces. 

Lone Mummer with Cat by David Blackwood 1987

A new exhibit at the Winnipeg Art Gallery featuring Newfoundland artist David Blackwood includes several beautiful prints of mummers. Mummering is thought to be an ancient tradition from England or Ireland.  In the late 1800s it was actually banned and made illegal in Newfoundland because of the drunkenness and violence that was often associated with the custom.

In the 1980s mummering started making a comeback when two Newfoundland singers Bud Davidge and Sim Savory recorded a song about mummering that became popular.  Perhaps David Blackwoods’ etchings of mummers created in the 1980s also helped to revive the custom. In 2009 the city of St. John’s began an annual December Mummers Parade that still draws hundreds of costumed Newfoundlanders into the streets for a celebration.

Beautiful Young Mummer in Margaret Feltham’s House by David Blackwood 1985

In an article called At Home and Away Dr. Diane Tye a professor in the Department of Folklore at Memorial University in St. John’s Newfoundland remarks on the haunting quality in David Blackwood’s mummer prints. His mummers look a bit like ghosts behind lace veils.

The Great Mummer by David Blackwood 1989

In a 2003 interview David Blackwood recalls going mummering himself when he was only five and at that age the disguised faces of the people around him did seem eerie and mysterious, particularly in the moonlight.  He says that mummers sometimes apologized for wrongs they had done when they visited or they might even deliver a marriage proposal.

Pound Cove Mummers Crossing Coal Harbour Pond by David Blackwood 1985

Dr. Tye says you can feel the cold of the Newfoundland winter nights in Blackwood’s prints. In many the mummers are solitary figures and if they are with others there appears to be no communication between them. Blackwood’s mummers are dark and mysterious. 

Mummering has become synonymous with Newfoundland as a fun folksy custom that attracts tourists and sells related souvenirs. David Blackwood’s prints offer us a slightly different view.  Check his mummers out for yourself at the Winnipeg Art Gallery this holiday season. 

Other posts……….

Finding An Old Friend

Inuit Art Isn’t Just Soapstone Carvings

Home Grown in Newfoundland




Filed under Art, Newfoundland, WInnipeg Art Gallery

Creating Beauty

untitled marion tuuluq 1985

Untitled wall hanging by Marion Tuuluq 1985

Her mother passed away before Marion was a year old. Her father committed suicide when she was ten. Her first husband died mysteriously. Marion had sixteen children but only four survived.

Until Marion Tuu’luq was in her early 50s she lived a nomadic life in the harsh landscape of the Back River area of Nunavut. Food was often scarce, modern medical care was not available and the natural environment was filled with inherent dangers.  Hard to believe that a woman who survived all that would create something as joyful and lovely as the beautiful wall hanging above.

photograph of Marion and her husband Luke from the

Photograph of Marion centre, husband Luke left and unidentified youth from the Expanding Inuit website

Marion moved to Baker Lake in 1961 with her second husband Luke Anguhadluq to have access to schools and medical care for their family and it was there in 1967 that Marion began to develop her artistic talents using some of the sewing skills she had learned as a child. 

marion t

Marion Tuuluq in a jacket she designed

Marion began by creating traditional style clothing with embroidered designs and then with the encouragement of art advisors Jack and Sheila Butler began doing large-scale wall hangings.  Often she planned these rich, colorful  pieces ahead of time but according to an article by Marie Bouchard called American Woman Artists of the Twentieth Century at times she simply picked up her scissors and started cutting images developing a theme as she went along.

thirty faces marion tuuluq 1974

Thirty Faces by Marion Tuuluq 1974

In 1974 the same year she made the wall hanging Thirty Faces above Marion’s work was included in an exhibit called Crafts From Arctic Canada in Ottawa and Toronto. After this Marion’s work received a great deal of attention. She became a member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts in 1978, and subsequently earned an honorary degree from the University of Alberta. You will find her work in galleries across Canada as well as in the National Gallery in Ottawa. 

lake trout 1973 marion tuuluq

Lake Trout by Marion Tuuluq -1973

Sadly Marion developed an allergy to wool in 1989 and that ended her creation of richly textured and appealing wall hangings.  Marion died in 2002 at age 92. 

nivinngajuliaatThe three wall hangings included in this blog post are all currently on view at the Winnipeg Art Gallery as part of the exhibit called Nivinngajuliaat which means ‘wall hanging’ in Inuktitut.  So you have a chance to see Marion’s work first hand along with other talented artists who created wall hangings in the Baker Lake community. 

Marion was 57 years old when she started her artistic career and 64 when she really started to make a name for herself in the art world.  Inspiring stuff for those of us in that age range who are still trying to discover and hone our various artistic talents. 

Other posts………

Getting to Know Oviloo

You Will Fall In Love With Her

Another Shameful Chapter in Canadian History

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And Mary You’ve Seen Hard Times

Winter Camp by Mary Yuusipik Singaqti

“I would always have to walk ahead leading the dogs. I hardly ever rode in the sled. Older children were wrapped in caribou fur to keep them warm and tied to the sled. One time when I was pregnant I was carrying my son Percy on my shoulders, packing my son Jeremy on my back and carrying my bedding.  I had a miscarriage. I lost a lot of blood and blacked out.  Percy was crying and trying to wake me up. I buried my baby.”

Hardship by Mary Yuusipik Singaqti

Those words are part of the haunting description artist Mary Yuusipik gives about what it was like in the 1950s to follow the caribou and set up winter camp in the isolated interior of the Back River area of Nunavut where Mary and her husband were raising their young family.  Times were hard, food was scarce and there was always the worry about being diagnosed with tuberculosis and being sent away from your family.  

Artist Mary Yuusipik creating an artwork outside her home

During this Christmas season as I hear stories about the biblical Mary forced to travel to Bethlehem while she was pregnant, and then forced to flee to Egypt with her young son, I  keep thinking about another Mary, Mary Yuusipik up in Nunavut  facing even greater hardships as she was forced to travel with her young children from camp to camp in such harsh conditions.  It reminded me of a song from a popular Christmas carol …. “and Mary you’ve seen hard times and all that you’ve been through”…

Photo of Mary and a grandchild by Fred Ford from the My WAG magazine

The Mary Yuusipik exhibit is currently on display at the Winnipeg Art Gallery.  Not only is Mary’s artwork special but all the drawings are accompanied by personal  stories Mary shared  with the gallery’s Inuit art curator Darlene Wight. The show will run through the Christmas season. It’s a must see. 

Other posts………

Butterflies in Nunavut? 

Crossing Seal River



Filed under Art, WInnipeg Art Gallery

Butterflies in Nunavut?

Chasing Butterflies by Mary Yuusipik Singaqti

I was preparing to give a tour of the Mary Yuusipik exhibit that just opened at the Winnipeg Art Gallery.  The exhibit includes twenty-six drawings that show what artist Mary Yuusipik’s life was like growing up in the 1940s and 1950s in the interior Back River area of Nunavut. I was reading about each of Mary’s drawings and studying them and when I came to this one called Chasing Butterflies I said to myself, “Butterflies in Nunavut? Wouldn’t it be way too cold for butterflies there?” Turns out according to this beautiful and interesting book by Carolyn Mallory The Common Insects of Nunavut there are eight kinds of butterflies and moths in Nunavut  including the Brush Footed Butterfly, the Gossamer Winged Butterfly and the White and Sulphur Butterfly. 

Brush Footed Butterfly- photo by Carolyn Mallory

Carolyn includes traditional stories she heard from people about the various insects in her book. Several older women in Baker Lake told Carolyn that if you placed a butterfly on newborn girls they would grow up to make beautiful designs on the things they sewed. 

Untitled wall hanging by Mary Yuusipik -2013

Looking at a gorgeous wall hanging like this one which is part of the current Mary Yuusipik exhibit  one might speculate that Mary herself may have had a butterfly alight on her as a newborn. 

Other posts……….

Stitching a Story

Cut in Stone

Transferring the Real to the Unreal

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Filed under Art, Nature, WInnipeg Art Gallery