Category Archives: winnipeg art gallery

A Dream Day At Work

Rosa Parks by Tony Scherman

“Look at her face. See the way the artist has all that darkness around her but her face is in the light?” A member of my tour group at the Winnipeg Art Gallery was responding to a painting of civil rights icon Rosa Parks.  Another tour member added, “Knowing what a good person she was, I’d say the light is coming from within, from inside her.”
The two people having that conversation live on the streets of Winnipeg.  1Just City is an organization that runs three drop-in centers for folks as their website says, “who have no place to call home.”  Earlier this week they brought a group of their regular visitors to spend an afternoon at the art gallery. It was such a pleasure showing them around.  They were so genuinely excited about the art.  They had so many questions! They were so ready to offer opinions and share their ideas.

The group was drawn to this sculpture on our rooftop called The Poet by sculptor Ossip Zadkine.  One woman pointed out the way the face looked much like something Picasso would have made, and a man in the group asked all kinds of questions about the Russian artist who’d created it.  

Woman and Polar Bear by Johnny Kakutuk

Another woman was looking at this sculpture and I asked if she would like me to tell her the legend the piece was based on. Everyone listened intently as I related the story of an elderly woman who cares for an orphaned polar bear that becomes like a son to her. Their story takes a sad turn and they are separated but eventually reunite. There were several moist eyes in the group when I was done.

Androgeny by Norval Morrisseau

We spent a long time looking at this piece by Norval Morrisseau. His life story was of great interest to my group.

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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 Winnipeg

One woman was intrigued by this artwork and asked me all about it.

I loved taking the group around the art gallery. They were delighted to be there and were genuinely curious about everything. I told them I hoped they would come back. Their visit capped off one of those dream days at my job.  

In the morning I’d given a tour to a group of high school students from a rural community about a 90-minute drive from Winnipeg.  Their classes were officially over but they’d showed up at school early that morning to make the trip into the city. None of them had ever been to the Winnipeg Art Gallery before.  They were so excited about all of the art.  Once we’d gotten started they basically guided the tour, moving from one artwork to another that piqued their interest and asking me questions about it and making comments. They were so intelligent and knowledgeable and supportive of one another.  I thought, “our world is in good hands if these kinds of young people are going to lead us in the future.”  

I always enjoy my job at the Winnipeg Art Gallery, but some days are a little more challenging than others.  This week I had one of those days when everything was a pure joy from start to finish. It was a dream day at work. 

Other posts………

Nostalgic Tour

On the Evening News

Siloam Mission at the Winnipeg Art Gallery

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Don’t Forget About Us

In May of 2016, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made a formal apology in the House of Commons for the 1914 actions of the Canadian government when they refused entry into Canada to nearly 400 British citizens, mostly Sikh men, who had traveled from India to Vancouver on board a Japanese ship called The Komagata Maru. After spending nearly two months in the Vancouver harbor the ship was forced to return to India at naval gunpoint.  British soldiers boarded The Komagata Maru upon its arrival in Calcutta and a riot ensued during which twenty passengers died and many were arrested. The Canadian immigration rules at the time discriminated against people from South East Asia, rather favoring immigrants from England, Europe, and the United States.  In 1914 British Columbia was home to some 2000 people from India mostly Sikhs from the Punjab who had come to work there. Other citizens who knew very little about India, its historical achievements, religious diversity, or rich culture, worried they would eventually become outnumbered by Indian immigrants. The Canadian government had put all kinds of rules and regulations in place to make it very difficult for people from India to enter Canada but the passengers on board The Komagata Maru claimed the rules didn’t apply to them because they were British citizens. Their pleas were rejected. 

Don’t Forget About Us by Jagdeep Raina 2014

I learned about The Komagata Maru because of a current installation at the Winnipeg Art Gallery that is part of our Vision Exchange exhibit.  It contains work by Jagdeep Raina an artist from Guelph Ontario who used archival documents from Kashmiri and Punjabian Sikh diaspora communities as inspiration.  His mixed media exhibition includes a drawing based on a 1914  photograph of men who had traveled on board The Komagata Maru. He has entitled it Don’t Forget About Us. 

Wikipedia photo of the passengers on board the Komagata Maru

In his apology in the House of Commons in 2016 Prime Minister Trudeau said that The Komagata Maru passengers were no different than millions of other immigrants to Canada.  They were simply seeking refuge and a better life for their families. They had much to contribute to Canada and we failed them utterly.

Nimrat Randhawa with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the formal apology for the Komagata Maru incident, May 18, 2016.

Nimrat Randhawa, the great, great granddaughter of Gurdit Singh the man who organized the attempt by the Komagata Maru passengers to gain entry into Canada. The photo was taken at the time of Canada’s formal apology to the Komagata Maru passengers. 

During his apology the Prime Minister urged people not to forget the prejudice suffered by the Sikh community in Canada. Jagdeep Raina’s artwork is a good reminder of the Prime Minister’s request.   You can read more about the Komagata Maru incident on the website of the Canadian Museum of Human Rights.

Other posts………

A Carpet Conversation About the Universe

Sports Equipment and Salt

Hyphenated Lives

Wrestling Farmers

 

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A Carpet Conversation About the Universe

raqs media collective The Necessity of InfinityDid you know you are looking at a conversation?  This beautiful wool carpet is woven through with metalized thread.  It is called The Necessity of Infinity and was created by the Raqs Media Collective consisting of artists Monica Narula, Jeebesh Bagchi, and Shuddhabrata Sengupta.  Their carpet serves as a stage for a conversation between two great Persian scholars who lived in the 10th century.avicenna-2 The silver threads in the carpet represent the words of Ibn Sina the author of more than 450 books most of them about medicine and healing. He is often called the Father of Modern Medicine.  Iba Sina was also very interested in, and knowledgeable about, mathematics, astronomy, and philosophy. 

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The golden threads in the carpet represent the words of Al Beruni. He studied mathematics, astronomy, geography, religion, and history. Among other things, he researched how the earth spins on its axis and figured out the lines of longitude and latitude for more than a thousand cities. He also wrote a pharmacy book in which he described every single known medicine of his time. 

The two men carried on a vibrant correspondence with one another over a period of some two years discussing their different understandings of what Aristotle had to say about the universe. They argued about whether all the planets had gravity and rotated. Al Beruni who lived in present-day Turkmenistan believed that human beings were all alone in the universe but Ibn Sina who lived some 250 miles away in present-day Uzbekistan argued that there could be many worlds other than our own. There is no evidence the two men ever met in person but The Raqs Media Collective imagined they did.  

neccesity of infinity by raqs collectiveWhen The Necessity of Infinity was on display at the Sharjah Museum in the United Arab Emirates two actors dressed as Beruni and Sina actually carried on a conversation about the universe on the carpet.

The Necessity of Infinity is part of the Vision Exchange exhibit currently on display at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. 

Other posts………

Hyphenated Lives

Sports Equipment and Salt

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Sports Equipment and Salt

This half circle of salt that features marble sports equipment is part of an installation by artist Sarindar Dhaliwal in the Vision Exchange exhibit currently on view at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. The cricket bat, field hockey stick, and badminton racket represent sports that were brought to India in their modern form by British colonizers although a game very similar to field hockey was played in the 17th century in the Punjab state of India called khido khundi.  Khido referred to the woolen ball and khundi to the stick.  

A team from India wins the Under 19 World Cricket Championships in 2018

India has become a formidable force in the world of cricket.  India’s elite took up the sport in order to build relationships with the British and its popularity spread to the general population.

India’s national women’s cricket team

This led the way for the creation of some superstar cricketers and India’s international success in the sport.

Why is the sports equipment lying on a bed of salt? In 1882 India was under British rule and the British passed a Salt Act which banned Indians from collecting or selling salt.  Salt had to be bought from the British and they added a heavy tax to each purchase.

Gandhi was joined by thousands on his Salt March.

In 1930 to protest the salt tax Indian leader Gandhi led a salt march.  Thousands of people walked down to the sea to collect salt from the salt flats there.

Gandhi bends down to pick up a lump of salt

Gandhi was arrested after he bent down to pick up a small lump of salt.  Gandhi’s actions led to peaceful protest demonstrations all over India. The British police force responded and in the end, some 60,000 protesters were arrested. Although India would not gain independence from the British until 1947 the salt march and the civil disobedience it inspired gave Gandhi a seat at the table in the discussions about India’s future.

Salt and sports equipment. Two symbols of India’s past as a colony of the British but also symbols of a future when India would control its own natural resources and make its own name in the sports world. 

Other posts……..

A Different Kind of Snow Angel

Hyphenated Lives

India Assaults the Senses

The Heros Walk

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What’s An Amauti?

woman combing her hair -unidentified artist 1970-1979 winnipeg art gallery

One of the Inuit sculptures that recently went on display in the Skylight area of the Winnipeg Art Gallery is this piece by an unidentified artist.  It shows a woman combing her hair.  The woman is wearing a traditional parka called an amautik or amauti especially designed for carrying children under the age of two. The amauti has a large comfortable pouch or amaut on the back just below the hood for babies.

Mother and Child by Sheokjuk-Oqutaq- Winnipeg Art Gallery collection

The amaut keeps the baby warm and safe from frostbite, the wind and the cold and also helps the mother and child to bond. The mother can even bring the baby from back to front for breastfeeding without exposing it to the elements. During the Our Land exhibit at the Winnipeg Art Gallery in 2016 and 2017, we had these beautiful amautiks on display. The one on the left is made of caribou and the one on the right of cotton decorated with beads. Can you even imagine how skilled a seamstress you would have to be to create one of these?

four generations pitaloosie sailaOne of my favorite pieces in the Winnipeg Art Gallery collection is this lithograph called Four Generations by Pitaloosie Saila which shows a family of Inuit women in their parkas.  Can you see the baby girl tucked into her mother’s amaut on the far right? She’s the fourth generation. 

Mother and Child by Tivi Ilisituk- Winnipeg Art Gallery collection

The word amauti is borrowed from Inuktituk.  The amauti has a long Inuit history going back centuries.

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Woman with Amautik and Stroller in Cape Dorset by Ansgar Walk

It is still being used today.

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Traditional Amauti- photograph by Jean Saint Martin- Clyde River Nunavut – 2004

Other posts……..

Inuit Fashion Show

A Very Personal Story

Looking Cool the Inuit Way

 

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Hyphenated Lives

Sun-Poe by Reena Saina Kallat. The sunbird is the national bird of Palestine and the hoopoe is the national bird of Israel

The drawings look like something you would see in zoology or botany textbooks.  Hyphenated Lives is a collection of art pieces by Reena Saina Kallat that depict hybrid specimens of birds, animals, trees, and plants. They were created by merging two species that are the national emblems of countries that have at some point been politically partitioned. The purpose of national symbols is to unite people but these drawings merge symbols from countries that have been separated. The artist illustrates that not only people but also elements of the natural world are interconnected and also suggests that sometimes nature can defy the barriers set up by politicians. This is the Sees-Yal tree.  On the left, you see the Sessile Oak the national symbol of the Republic of Ireland. On the right, you see the Royal Oak an important symbol in England since legend has it that Charles II hid in an oak tree to escape Oliver Cromwell’s soldiers.   In 1921 Ireland was partitioned, with southern Ireland becoming independent and eventually a republic and Northern Ireland remaining part of the United Kingdom.  Although the relationship between northern and southern Ireland is relatively peaceful right now from 1968-1998 there were thirty years of terrible conflict between the two that resulted in thousands of deaths. Some of the Hyphenated Lives pieces, like this one, feature electric cables. They are a symbol of the way ideas and information can be transmitted bringing people together.  Often however Reena Saina Kallat has them morph into barbed wire barriers.   Behold the Ti-Khor. On the left, you see a tiger, the national animal of India and on the right the markhor, an endangered species of a wild goat that is the national animal of Pakistan. In 1947 a provision of the Indian Independence Act which separated India from Great Britain also separated Pakistan from India. This partition created along religious lines- Pakistan largely Muslim and India largely Hindu- created a refugee crisis and stirred up large scale violence that resulted in the loss of millions of lives. The relationship between Pakistan and India continues to be a troubled one. The Edel-Lip is a hybrid of the Edelweiss the national flower of Austria and the tulip the national flower of Hungary. Austria and Hungary both belonged to the Austro-Hungarian Empire from 1867 to 1918 but after World War I became distinct and separate European countries.  In 1945 the advance of communism in Hungary and the erection of the Iron Curtain which Russia used to separate its European allies from the West created a barrier between Austria and Hungary and Austria took in thousands of refugees from Hungary. The Iron Curtain came down in 1989 and in 2007 an agreement between Austria and Hungary allowed citizens to move back and forth freely between the two countries.

This art piece is called The Jordan River. The  Jewish state of Israel was established in 1948 in an area previously called Palestine that was home to Arab Muslims who became displaced refugees when Israel was established.  Adjacent to Israel to the west of the Jordan River is an area called The West Bank that holds many sites of cultural, historical and religious significance for Jews, Muslims and Christians and there has been a long history of violent conflict as both Israelis and Palestinians have tried to claim this territory. The Jordan River is the primary water source of the area and so it has been at the heart of the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine. The Pea Yel bird is a combination of the peacock which is the national bird of India and the doyel or magpie robin which is the national bird of Bangladesh. The Partition of Bengal in 1947 divided the province between India and Pakistan. Predominantly Hindu West Bengal became a state of India and predominantly Muslim East Bengal which would later become Bangladesh became a province of Pakistan.  

Hyphenated Lives is currently on display at the Winnipeg Art Gallery as part of the Vision Exchange exhibit that features artists who have their roots in India. I find Hyphenated Lives very thought- provoking as I try to envision other combinations of living things that could illustrate the establishment of a relationship between countries or groups of people that have barriers real or imagined between them. 

Other posts………..

Animal Wisdom

Nature’s Artwork

The Book of Creation

 

 

 

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Books and Brushes – Connecting Art and Literature

I am almost finished re-reading the Pulitzer Prize winning novel Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides.  On May 21st at 11:30 I will lead a Books and Brushes session at the Winnipeg Art Gallery where we will use Middlesex as our inspiration for looking at various pieces of art currently on view in the galleries.  This is the fourth Books and Brushes session I have been assigned. Sometimes finding connections between a book and paintings or sculptures in the galleries is pretty easy. Other times when I start reading a novel I wonder how I will connect it at all. I first read Middlesex several years ago and just loved the breathtaking prose.  Eugenides has this way of describing things and people and events that forces you to go back to read his words over and over and again because they paint such a wondrous picture. But on this second reading I couldn’t get too distracted by the beauty of the words because I had to focus on connections I could make between the book and the WAG art collection. 

The first connection was easy.  Middlesex tells the moving story of Calliope Helen Stephanides a hermaphrodite born in 1960 in Detroit into an incredibly colorful Greek family.   Calliope eventually becomes Cal a fascinating man who works for the American state department in Berlin.

Androgyny by Norval Morrisseau 1983

I knew the reason Middlesex had been chosen by McNally Robinson the Winnipeg Art Gallery’s partner in the Books and Brushes series was because we currently have Norval Morrisseau’s giant mural Androgyny on view in the main lobby of our building.  But what other works of art might connect with the book?

Clouds, Lake Superior- by Lawren Harris 1923

I read and wondered and read and wondered and then about a hundred pages in Voilà! I found a connection to the paintings of Lawren Harris one of Canada’s  famous Group of Seven.

Margaux Hemingway by Tony Scherman

A hundred pages later I made a huge asterisk in my notes by a section of the novel that related perfectly to some new work at the gallery by Canadian artist Tony Scherman.

This kept happening so even though I am not quite finished re-reading Middlesex I know there will be plenty for me to talk about with my fellow book and art lovers on May 21st.   

There is still lots of time for you to buy the book at McNally Robinson read it, and come and join me to discover the connections I’ve made between art and a beautifully written novel.  You might even make some connections of your own and I’d love to talk about them with you. You can find out all the details about the book club here.    Hope to see you there!

Other posts……….

Difficult Women

Bold and Beautiful

Two Diverse Member of the Group of Seven

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Filed under Art, Books, winnipeg art gallery