Category Archives: winnipeg art gallery

The Gift Was A Gift

The Gift/Tuniigusiia by Goota Ashoona

The Gift a new sculpture by Inuit artist Goota Ashoona, was a gift from the Manitoba Teachers Society to the Winnipeg Art Gallery’s new Inuit Art Centre called Qaumajuq.

The teachers of our province help impart the gift of knowledge to young people and Goota Ashoona illustrates that idea of sharing knowledge in her beautiful piece of art.

On this side of the sculpture, you can see a mother teaching her daughter to do Inuit throat singing. The mother’s face has traditional tattoos and I love the way she rests her head against her daughter’s as she passes on the knowledge of an important Inuit art form.

The woman looking skyward on the sculpture is Sedna or Nuliajuk

Storytelling is another way of passing on knowledge and that is illustrated on the other side of the sculpture which features Sedna or Nuliajuk. Sedna is the main character in a traditional Inuit story about a girl who drowns while fleeing an unhappy marriage. She becomes a mermaid who is responsible for the creation of all the animals of the northern seas.

Artist Goota Ashoona with her sculpture The Gift/Tuniigusiia

Artist Goota Ashoona says in this video that it was her grandmother who told her the story of Sedna or Nuliajuk. It’s a story that has many different versions and I shared it literally a hundred times or more with groups of visitors during the eight years I gave tours at the Winnipeg Art Gallery.

Just check out all the marvellous details Goota Ashoona has included in her sculpture made from Verde Guatemala marble. Can you see the mermaid’s tail to the left? Goota Ashoona shows Sedna or Nuliajuk’s fingers prominently because in the story those fingers get cut off and become all the northern marine animals. You can also see her long flowing hair. In some versions of the story of Sedna, shamans dive down into the sea to comb Sedna’s tangled hair when they want to make her happy and ask her for a favour.

I love the way the face of the older woman can be seen on this side of the sculpture as well. For me at least it alludes to the fact that Goota Ashoona heard the story of Sedna or Nuliajuk from her grandmother.

Inside the Winnipeg Art Gallery, you can see an entire gallery with dozens of artistic representations of the Sedna or Nuliajuk story including this gorgeous 2009 sculpture by Goota Ashoona.

I took this photo of The Story of Nuliajuk by Goota Ashoona on one of my last working days at the Winnipeg Art Gallery before it closed due to the pandemic.

The dedication for The Gift says it is for the teachers all around us in the land and in our lives who reveal the truth, wisdom, and beauty that connects us all.

Don’t you just love that? I could write another whole blog post just about that gem of a statement.

Why not take a close look at the sculpture yourself? You can find it on the corner of St. Mary Avenue and Memorial Boulevard.

Other posts……….

Sedna is a Planet

Inuit Art at the Zoo

Inuit Art Isn’t Just Soapstone Carvings

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Filed under Art, Education, manitoba, winnipeg art gallery

Mural On the Hudson’s Bay Store Window Made By A 90-Year-Old Woman

If you have walked by the old Hudson’s Bay store in downtown Winnipeg recently you might have noticed this mural in one of the windows.

Yesterday and Today by Elisapee Ishulutaq

The original mural which is in the permanent collection of the Winnipeg Art Gallery was made with oil sticks by Elisapee Ishulutaq when she was 90 years old. For five days in 2014, Elisapee slid along the floor in her apron, sealskin boots, and knitted sweater with her wire-frame glasses perched on her nose to create a vibrant scene that records the history of her home community of Pangnirtung in Nunavut.

You can watch a video and see how Elisapee gets out of her wheelchair, kneels down on the floor, and fearlessly starts to draw marks with her oil sticks on a long piece of paper to make her mural.

Elisapee’s mural features things from the past like sleds, sealskin tents, and kids playing tug of war games with animal bones. She also includes things from the present like all-terrain vehicles, wooden buildings, and kids playing hockey.  

I took a photo of the full-length mural when it was on display at the Winnipeg Art Gallery in 2015

In the video, you can hear Elisapee describing in her native language what life was like in Pangnirtung. Her narration is interspersed with laughter and song.  

Elisapee Ishulutaq – photo from the Da Vinci art site

She laughs heartily as she talks about the games children played long ago in winter. She demonstrates how windows were made with seal skin intestine and describes the seal skin tents people lived in.

One side of her mural shows summer scenes and the other depicts the winter months in Pangnirtung. Elisapee wanted the old way of life in the north to be remembered by future generations and hoped that her art could do that. 

Elisapee Ishulutaq was a renowned artist, who was awarded the Order of Canada. She is known for her expressive, autobiographical images of daily life in Canada’s Arctic. She died in 2018.

Elisapee said that in this section of her mural the bright blue building was the Hudson’s Bay store in Pangnirtung. Now Elisapee’s mural is being displayed larger than life on another Hudson’s Bay store. I think that’s pretty neat!

Other posts………

Golfing At An Old Hudson’s Bay Outpost

Good-bye Pitaloosie


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Filed under Art, Winnipeg, winnipeg art gallery

The First Thing I Love About Canada’s New Governor-General

Mary Simon the Governor-General of Canada- photo by Blair Gable- Canadian Press

I LOVED the dress our new Canadian Governor General wore when she was sworn into office on July 26th.

Victoria Okpik to the right of Mary Simon designed her dress and Julie Grenier to her left created the beading on her dress. – photo from Julie Grenier

The navy dress was designed by Victoria Okpik, originally from Quaqtaq, Nunavik, in northern Quebec. Victoria was the first Inuk graduate in fashion design from Montreal’s LaSalle College and has more than twenty years of experience as both a seamstress and designer. When Mary Simon requested that Victoria make her dress for the swearing-in she had just twenty days to complete the task. Lots of e-mails with measurements, designs, and colors flew back and forth between Mary and Victoria as the dress took shape.

Beadwork on Mary’s dress done by Julie Grenier- photo by Julie Grenier

The beading on the dress was done by Julie Grenier who comes from the same small community as Mary Simon. She created a motif with flowers she used to pick as a child and colors that reminded her of Mary’s character and personality.

Julie and Victoria said it was a great honor to work on the dress. Since they had such a short time to make it both women put in long hours to get the dress ready on time. Julie and Victoria represent a long tradition of Inuk fashion creators.

A photo I took at the Winnipeg Art Gallery in 2016

Inuit fashion is not something new as I learned when I worked at the Winnipeg Art Gallery and we had an exhibit called Our Land which featured all kinds of remarkable fashion items made by Inuk women. Everything from unique jewelry to stylish headgear to gorgeous parkas also called amautis.

Kamik by Inez Shiwak and Jane Shiwak

During another exhibit in 2018 called SakKijâjuk, I was privileged to listen to a talk by some of the Inuk women who were preserving the art of making kamik. Check out the use of floral beading on the kamik like the beading on Mary Simon’s dress.

Mary Simon paid tribute to a long tradition of fashion in her culture when she invited two Inuk designers to create the dress for her swearing-in ceremony as Governor-General.

Photo by Sean Kilpatrick of the Canadian Press

The dress she had designed for her investiture into office as Governor-General is the first thing I love about Mary Simon. Check out my blog post tomorrow to find out what the second thing is that I love about Mary Simon.

Other posts……….

What is an Amauti?

Inuit Art Isn’t Just Soapstone Carvings

Inuit Fashion Show

Stitching A Story

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Filed under Canada, winnipeg art gallery

Good-Bye Pitaloosie

This is a self-portrait by Cape Dorset artist Pitaloosie Saila. Isn’t she incredibly lovely? The portrait shows the artist as a young woman.  Although in reality Pitaloosie’s face was not tattooed, she has portrayed herself with tattoos because she remembered her aunts having tattoos like this.  Pitaloosie has put her portrait on an ulu, a traditional Inuit woman’s knife.  Pitaloosie had a large personal collection of different kinds of ulus. 

Pitaloosie Saila

I was so very sad to learn of the death of Pitaloosi Saila last Saturday. She was the creator of some of my favorite pieces of art on display at the Winnipeg Art Gallery during the eight years I worked there. Pitaloosi was 79 when she died and had been contributing to the Cape Dorset print collection for over 60 years.

Pitaloosie Saila answers questions at the Winnipeg Art Gallery on October 28, 2017

I had the privilege of meeting Pitaloosi Saila in person in October of 2017 when she came to the city for the opening of an exhibit featuring 32 of her stunning prints curated by Susan Gustavison and Darlene Wight. The prints told the story of Pitaloosie’s life.

In this lithograph, we see four generations of Pitaloosie’s family.  On the far right is her great-grandmother chewing a seal skin to soften it.  In the middle is Pitaloosie’s grandmother with a more modern hairstyle and clothing.  On the far left is Pitaloosie’s mother.  She died when Pitaloosie was only two years old so the artist never really got to know her mother but she has dressed her in an even more modern way than the other two women. There is little Pitaloosie in the amauti in her mother’s parka.

After Pitaloosie’s mother died she was raised by her grandmother. In this print, she has shown her grandmother dancing a reel on one of the whaling ships that came into Cape Dorset.

Pitaloosie and Aqsatunnguaq – a watercolor by Pitaloosie Saila

There is a sad story behind this gorgeous watercolor of Pitaloosie and her sister. As a child Pitaloosie was sent south to hospitals for seven years because of a back injury and complications from tuberculosis.  While she was gone her dear sister Aqsatunnguaq died.  Pitaloosie didn’t find out till she returned home to Cape Dorset. Like many other Inuit children who were separated from their parents and taken to southern hospitals, Pitaloosie lost her Inituktuk language and couldn’t even talk to her family when she returned home.

Arctic Madonna by Pitaloosie Saila

Pitaloosie began doing artwork in the 1960s and in her lifetime produced close to 1,500 pieces. Her print above Arctic Madonna was featured on a UNICEF greeting card in 1983.

One of her art pieces Fisherman’s Dream was featured on a Canadian stamp.

Four Generations by Pitaloosie Saila

This is my very favorite piece of Pitaloosie’s. Three generations look forward and one looks back.

Pitaloosie’s art told the story of the past and provided a forward-looking vision for a younger generation. One of Pitaloosie’s granddaughters is also an artist.

I was very sorry to hear about the death of Pitaloosie Saila. We are so fortunate to have her beautiful artwork that gives us an intimate and personal look at the life of a remarkable Inuit woman and artist.

Note: Except for the stamp all the images in this post were ones I photographed during the Pitaloosie Saila exhibit at the Winnipeg Art Gallery in 2017

Other posts……….

What’s An Amauti?

Sedna is a Planet

Another Shameful Chapter in Canadian History

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Filed under Art, winnipeg art gallery

10 Things About Kent Monkman’s The Scream

The painting The Scream has been all over social media since the recent discovery of a mass grave at a former residential school site in Kamloops. Unfortunately, the Canadian artist Kent Monkman is often not credited in these postings for his stirring and graphic portrayal of children being torn away from their families and taken to residential school.

As a tour guide, I had the privilege of introducing The Scream to hundreds of visitors who viewed the painting when it was on exhibit at the Winnipeg Art Gallery in 2019-2020. Although the images in the artwork speak volumes on their own, people were interested in learning more about the painting.

Did you know that………

Children at the Brandon Residential School

1. The artwork is dedicated to Kent Monkman’s grandmother Elizabeth Monkman who was a survivor of the Brandon Residential School in Manitoba. The first time she spoke about her experience at the school was on her deathbed.

Kent Monkman – Photo by Samuel Engelking- from the Kent Monkman Studio Facebook page

2. The artist who created The Scream Kent Monkman spent the early years of his childhood on the Shamattawa First Nation in northern Manitoba where his parents were Christian missionaries. His father Everet Monkman was a member of the Fisher River First Nation and his mother Rilla Unger was of Anglo-Irish descent. The family moved to Winnipeg when Kent was six. He lived in River Heights and he went to school there graduating from Kelvin High School. He took art classes at the Winnipeg Art Gallery.

Massacre of the Innocents by Peter Paul Rubens- 1611

3. One of Monkman’s inspirations for The Scream was an artwork from the 17th century by Peter Paul Rubens called Massacre of the Innocents. It depicts a Biblical story where King Herod slaughters all the baby boys in Bethlehem in an attempt to kill the infant Jesus.

Photo from the Smithsonian Institute Website – Girls sewing at the St. Bernard Residential School in Grouard Alberta between 1925 and 1935 Monkman included artefacts from this residential school in his display of The Scream at the Winnipeg Art Gallery

4. In his notes about The Scream Monkman says the painting tells us in a visual way what was found in the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 2015. Monkman says that report enlightened many Canadians who didn’t know about the devastation wrought by residential schools. Thousands of children never returned home because they were dead or missing. Thousands were sexually and physically abused, some starved, most forced into free labour and some used in medical experiments. Children were required to sever their ties with their language and culture during their time in the schools. 

Edvard Munch The Scream 1893

5. The title of Monkman’s The Scream alludes to an iconic painting by Norwegian artist Edvard Munch.

This photograph of Kent Monkman at work on a painting was taken by Aaron Wynia and is from an essay written by Jami Powell and published on the Art Canada Institute website.

6. Monkman created The Scream by bringing actors into his studio in Toronto who dressed up in costumes and acted out the scenes we see in painting. Thousands of photographs were taken and then some were selected, edited and cropped and finally projected onto a canvas where their silhouettes were traced and then painstakingly filled in with layer after layer of colour. You can learn more about Monkman’s process here.

Detail from Kent Monkman’s painting The Scream

7. One art critic says the face of the woman at the heart of The Scream

Dorthea Lange’s Migrant Mother -1936

is reminiscent of the face of the woman in Dorthea Lange’s famous photograph Migrant Mother.

Do you see the children trying to run away in the top right hand corner of the painting?

8. There are hundreds of details in The Scream that careful study can reveal. Almost every time I took a group of gallery visitors to see the painting someone would find something new or come up with a new idea of why something had been included in the painting.

9. The actual painting The Scream is 7 feet by 11 feet. It was purchased by the Denver Art Museum in 2017.

The Scoop 2018 by Kent Monkman from the Kent Monkman Studio Facebook page

10. Kent Monkman has done a painting related to The Scream called The Scoop.   The Sixties Scoop is a name given to the practice in Canada from the 1950s to 1980s  of taking, or “scooping up”, Indigenous children from their families and communities for placement in foster or adoptive homes. 

It is understandable why Kent Monkman’s The Scream has become the signature image for illustrating the tragic truth uncovered at the residential school in Kamloops. I just wish people knew more about the artist and had more information about his moving and thought-provoking masterpiece.

Other posts……….

He’s From Winnipeg

Starvation by Kent Monkman

Incarceration by Kent Monkman

A Different Kind of Nativity Scene

Memorable Final Day


Filed under Art, Canada, History, winnipeg art gallery

Locked Away

I read the heartbreaking news about all those little bodies found in a mass grave on the grounds of the residential school in Kamloops just before I read the second of two revealing articles in the Winnipeg Free Press about conditions at the Stoney Mountain Federal Penitentiary. And it made me think about how we started locking away Indigenous people over a hundred and fifty years ago and how we still do that.

The Dakota Boat by W. Frank Lynn shows Indigenous people observing the arrival of a boat carrying immigrants at the Upper Fort Garry site in Winnipegphotographed at the Winnipeg Art Gallery

We took away the land Indigenous people lived on and locked them away on reservations. Most couldn’t leave without a pass from the Indian agent in charge of their reserve. They needed a pass to visit their children in residential school, take things to sell at local markets or attend cultural celebrations on other reserves.

Reserves were often located on less favourable land where it was hard to farm or make a living. Canadian laws made it difficult for residents to hunt and fish. Today there is often not enough land on reserves for people to have adequate housing and since many reserves are isolated some don’t have basic services like clean water or good education and employment opportunities

The Scream by Kent Monkman shows children being forcibly taken to residential school. – photographed at the Winnipeg Art Gallery

We locked Indigenous children away in residential schools taking them forcibly, if necessary, from their parents when they were as young as four years old and keeping them till they were sixteen. We know now that residential schools were places where children often lacked nutritious diets, were separated from their siblings, were forbidden to speak their Indigenous languages, were subject to harsh punishment and sexual assault, exposed to contagious diseases, received inadequate medical care, did unpaid labour in unsafe work environments and had their traditional cultural practices vilified. Families today still suffer from the long term impact of residential schools the last of which shuttered its doors in 1996.

Reincarceration by Kent Monkman is a painting of the Stoney Mountain Federal Penitentiary and illustrates its impact on Indigenous Manitobans. Photographed at the Winnipeg Art Gallery

And we are still locking Indigenous people away in our prisons. Here in Manitoba, 75% of the people incarcerated in our correctional facilities are Indigenous even though they only represent 15% of our population. And as the Free Press article pointed out the conditions in which they live in the Stoney Mountain Federal Penitentiary are far from humane. In the last four years, there have been 23 inmate deaths there caused by suicide, drug overdose, gang violence and “apparent” natural causes. Half of the inmates contracted COVID-19.

The building is old without many of the modern features that would make for greater safety and there aren’t adequate medical and mental health resources for inmates. Many are housed in century-old cells that prison reformer Agnes Macphail claimed at the time they were constructed were already dangerous and unfit for human habitation.

How do we make retribution for how we have locked away Indigenous people in the past? How do we change things so the practice doesn’t continue? I think we need to ask Indigenous Canadians to tell us how we do that and then we need to listen to what they say.

Other posts………..

The Scream


The Dakota Boat


Filed under Canada, History, winnipeg art gallery

When is an Inuksuk Not an Inuksuk?

This marvellous 1989 sculpture on the rooftop of the Winnipeg Art Gallery by Manasie Akpaliapik is called Inuksuk. But I learned after I had worked at the art gallery for a couple of years that it actually wasn’t an inuksuk at all. It was an inunnguaq. What’s the difference?

Inuksuks on Foxe Peninsula- Baffin Island- photo by Ansgar Walk

According to the Canadian Encyclopedia inuksuit (the plural for inuksuk) also sometimes called Inukshuks have been found at sites that date from as long ago as 2400 BC. They are formations of rocks used by people across the Arctic as markers for all kinds of purposes- navigational routes, good kayak landing spots, good hunting and fishing sites, locations of celebrations and caches of meat. These markers can be in many different formations. 

Inunnguaq on the other hand are shaped like human beings and can venerate a person, mark a spot for people to meet, or have spiritual significance. 

Flag of Nunavut

So this symbol on the flag of the Canadian territory Nunavut is an inuksuk or inukshuk because although it looks somewhat like a human figure it does not have legs.

But in 2010 this symbol chosen for the Olympic Games in Vancouver was really an inunnguaq even though officials and the media regularly referred to it incorrectly as an inuksuk or inukshuk.

Piita Irniq, Inuit cultural activist, inuksuk builder, and former Nunavut commissioner, says it is important to distinguish between inuksuit and inunnguaqs because inunnguaqs have only been built in the last hundred years or so, largely by non-Inuit people, and are not authentic inuksuit.

Inuksuk- a lithograph by Gilbert Hay 1981- photographed at the Winnipeg Art Gallery

There are inunnguaqs mistakenly called inukshuks or inuksuit all over the world.  

A statue in Hiroshima Japan donated by a variety of Canadian groups as a landmark for peace.

This statue in Hiroshima Japan is called an inukshuk on the plaque at its base although it is clearly an inunnguaq.

A inunnguaq in the Canadian Embassy in Washington DC

So when is an inuksuk not a Inuksuk?

When it’s an inunnguaq !

Other posts………..

Build Your Own

The Amazing Race- Driedger Style

Whalebone Sculptures


Filed under Art, Canada, winnipeg art gallery

Ten Things About Muriel

I’ve heard Muriel Richardson’s name hundreds of times but realized recently I didn’t really know very much about her.

Photo of Muriel Richardson from the Western Pictorial Index
I’ve been employed for eight years at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. Our main auditorium is named after Muriel Richardson.

Muriel Richardson Auditorium at the Winnipeg Art Gallery

I’ve repeated Muriel’s name more times than I can count as I’ve directed guests to the auditorium named after her, or shown visitors the artwork in the auditorium’s foyer. But I’d never really stopped to think about who exactly Muriel was, and why the most frequently used room at the art gallery was named after her. So I decided to find out. I discovered that………..

1. Muriel was the first woman to run a large Canadian corporation. She took over the leadership of James Richardson and Sons Ltd. in 1939 following the death of her husband James Armstrong Richardson. She was fifty three years old at the time and continued to run the family company for the next twenty seven years.

2. According to an article in the Toronto Globe and Mail she was a trailblazer, pragmatic and full of common sense. She is credited with defining the essential character of both her family and the corporation.

3. She introduced a company pension plan and group insurance plan during her presidential tenure well before most other Canadian corporations had implemented such benefits for their employees. 

Photo of Muriel Richardson from the Richardson Wealth website

4. She believed that to those to whom much is given, much is also required. In keeping with this principle she established a charitable foundation for the family firm which continues to donate very generous sums each year to worthy causes usually in a discreet way.

5. She was born in Ontario as Annie Muriel Sprague in 1890 and moved to Winnipeg in 1919 after her marriage to James Richardson. According to the Dictionary of Canadian Biography she was not only James’ life partner but also his business confidante which meant she was familiar with the complexities of the family business when her husband died.

An artwork showing five generations of the Richardson Family from the Winnipeg First website.

6. Muriel had four children George, James, Kathleen and Agnes. Agnes was the first female chancellor of Queens University. James served as a member of Canada’s Parliament. Kathleen accumulated a lengthy list of awards and honours for her charitable work most notably in support of the arts. George was his mother’s ultimate successor in the family business.

7. Muriel’s grandson Hartley who currently heads the family corporation tells a story about his grandmother’s pivotal decision to take over leadership of the family company. In 1939 just after her husband’s death she was on her way to a meeting to discuss the future of James Richardson and Sons. As she stopped to glance in mirror just outside the meeting room she overheard the men inside discussing how this would no doubt be the end of the company. How could they proceed without a leader? In an instant Muriel decided she would be the new president. She walked into the boardroom and announced her decision.

8. Muriel served on the Queens University board of trustees for nearly thirty years and was the honorary chair of many civic, provincial and national charities. She was the board chair of the Winnipeg Foundation a registered charity established in 1921 dedicated to the social improvement of the city. According to a Winnipeg Art Gallery timeline, in 1967 Muriel purchased the land where the current Winnipeg Art Gallery is located in order to help the building of the new gallery along.

9. In a June 1957 article Macleans magazine dubbed Muriel the shy baroness of brokerage. She was the first woman inducted into the Canadian Business Hall of Fame.

10. Muriel died on January 8th 1973. She is buried in the St. John’s Cathedral Cemetery.

Portrait of Muriel Richardson from a private collection

In the future when I am in the Muriel Richardson Auditorium with Winnipeg Art Gallery guests, I will be sure to take a moment to show them a photo of Muriel and tell them something about the successful and accomplished woman for whom the auditorium is named.

Other posts………

Women Soldiers

Her Worship

As Important As Her Husband




Filed under History, Winnipeg, winnipeg art gallery

Missing the Winnipeg Art Gallery at Christmas

I worked at the Winnipeg Art Gallery for about eight years before the pandemic forced its closing. Many of the pieces of art at the gallery became like old friends to me. I was a tour guide and my knowledge of certain works in our collection was fairly intimate after I had talked about them with literally thousands of people of all ages. Some of the old friends I am missing particularly now during the Christmas season are………..

The Tobit Tapasteries which often hung in the Winnipeg Art Gallery lobby during the Christmas season. The work of a Flemish artist commissioned by King Henry VIII the woven wonders retell the story found in the Book of Tobit an apocryphal Scripture. At one point I knew every detail of the long and intricate and action-packed Tobit narrative as it is illustrated in the tapestries as well as the exciting story about how the tapestries were once stolen from the Winnipeg Art Gallery.  You can learn about that in a post I wrote about the tapestries five years ago called A Magic Fish, Seven Dead Husbands and Thieves That Weren’t That Bright. 

Early Snow by Tom Thompson

This painting by Tom Thompson showing a snowy scene in Ontario was one I often spent a long time looking at with gallery visitors.  I told them the story of Tom Thompson a talented and gifted man who died far too young but is credited with inspiring Canada’s famous Group of Seven artists to consider the joy of painting outdoors and the importance of capturing on canvas the rugged natural wonder of Canada’s stunning scenery. The texture, the colours, the movement and the mood of Early Snow perfectly convey Tom Thompson’s strong feelings about the beauty of Canada’s north in winter.

Adoration of the Magi by Jorg Stocker 

The Magi in this painting by German artist Jorg Stocker are different ages and each represents a different continent- Europe, Asia and Africa. Stocker also shows an earlier scene from the Magi narrative because, in the distance on the road, we see the journey of their entourage as it made its way to visit the Holy Family.

The painting was actually an early kind of advertisement because the people in the painting are dressed in the famous silk and wool products for which the city of Ulm was famous. Ulm was the artist Jorg Stocker’s hometown. The painting often sparked a discussion with my tour participants about how artists have reenvisioned this scene over the centuries to make it meaningful for people living in their time. 

Winter Camp by Mary Yuusipik Singaqti

In the haunting accompanying narrative for this piece by Mary Yuusipik, she describes the hard times she experienced during the 1950s as her family followed the caribou and set up winter camp in the isolated interior of the Back River area of Nunavut. Mary had two young children and miscarried a third as she walked. She buried that child in the snow and kept right on walking. Food was scarce and Mary worried constantly that someone in her family would get tuberculosis.   Artist Mary Yuusipik reminds me of the Mary in the nativity story who also experienced such a hard journey just before giving birth.

Friends Rejoicing by Daphne Odjig

This is absolutely one of my most beloved pieces of art in the WAG collection.  It is by the incredibly talented Daphne Odjig who is sometimes called The Grandmother of Indigenous Art because of the way she mentored and supported young Indigenous artists and inspired them with her energy. Her bright and colourful Friends Rejoicing fairly shouts with happiness.  Everyone is jubilant over the birth of a child. Some people appear to be singing their joy just as angels sang at the birth in Bethlehem. For me, Daphne’s painting sends the message that the birth of every child is a reason for happiness and hope. 

Hopefully, by next Christmas, I will be back at the Winnipeg Art Gallery giving tours, but until then the memory of these marvellous works of art will have to sustain me. 

Other posts………….

And Mary You’ve Seen Hard Times

Picasso’s Grandmother is Canadian

In the Footsteps of Tom Thompson

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Filed under Art, Holidays, winnipeg art gallery

An Inspiration For Our Time

Linda by Elizabeth Wyn Wood- 1932- Winnipeg Art Gallery Collection photo from the Instagram page of Winnipeg Art Gallery director Stephen Borys

Meet Linda. Standing over six and a half feet tall she is an imposing and powerful figure. Her feet are broad and bare but planted firmly apart. Her hands positioned behind her back are large and work-worn. Her hair looks like she may have cut it herself with a razor. Her dress is plain and simple and a slight softening at the waist could suggest she is pregnant although the rest of her body looks sturdy and lean. The lines around her eyes hint of weariness and worry but they stare straight forward. Up close you notice how her jaw juts in a determined way.

Prior to the pandemic, I worked at the Winnipeg Art Gallery as a guide and this was a favourite piece of mine. Linda was created by Canadian artist Elizabeth Wyn Wood in 1932 who said the woman in the sculpture represented the resolve and spirit people had during the Depression of the 1930s.

A photo I took of Linda by Elizabeth Wyn Wood during the Defying Tradition exhibit at the Winnipeg Art Gallery in 2018.

Recently Winnipeg Art Gallery director Stephen Borys featured a photo of Linda on his Instagram page and I thought it was an inspired choice. We are living in a time right now that requires plenty of the resolve and determination that Elizabeth Wyn Wood’s portrait of Linda displays. It reminds us that Canadians survived the Great Depression and emerged from it to build a brighter future for their families. The same outcome is possible as we face our current historic challenge.

Other posts……………..

Talk About Defying Convention

All in the Family

A Memorable Final Day


Filed under Art, COVID-19 Diary, winnipeg art gallery