Category Archives: winnipeg art gallery

He’s From Winnipeg

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

I am so excited about the Kent Monkman exhibit Shame and Prejudice coming to the Winnipeg Art Gallery in just a few weeks. Kent Monkman lives in Toronto, has exhibited on three continents, and has an international reputation.

But did you know Kent Monkman grew up in Winnipeg and has many childhood connections with the Winnipeg Art Gallery? He’s always loved to draw and was sketching and painting horses before he was five.

Monkman started studying art at the Winnipeg Art Gallery when he was one of two kids chosen from his school to receive free Saturday morning classes at the WAG. In an interview with the Toronto Globe and Mail, he says, “I felt such a sense of belonging at the Winnipeg Art Gallery because I spent so much time there as a kid, not just in the art classes, but walking through the galleries.”

In a lecture at Queens University, the artist describes how he felt a certain kind of ownership of the Winnipeg Art Gallery space especially after seeing the work of Anishinaabe artist Robert Houle exhibited there.  In an article in the Winnipeg Free Press Monkman talks about how fascinated he was to see an indigenous man who was “a contemporary artist making modern paintings.”  He was inspired by Houle’s work. 

Kent Monkman was born in St. Mary’s Ontario. His father Everet Monkman was a member of Fisher River First Nation and his mother, a schoolteacher Rilla Unger, was Anglo-Irish.  They were both devout evangelical Christians who met through their church connection. An article in the Toronto Life magazine says the Monkman family first lived in Shamattawa in northern Manitoba as Christian missionaries. Kent’s mother found it very difficult. She couldn’t speak Cree and their living accommodations were rustic.                

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

When Kent was in grade one his family moved to Winnipeg where his Dad did church work, drove a taxi, was a social worker and a bush pilot. He died in a plane crash when Kent was 21. His great grandmother Caroline Everett, who spoke only Cree,  lived with his family in Winnipeg till he was ten so he had a strong connection with his indigenous family history as a young child. His grandmother Elizabeth Monkman went to a residential school in Brandon, Manitoba but only talked about the suffering she had experienced there on her deathbed.

Kent’s family lived in River Heights where he went to Kelvin High School with kids from some of Winnipeg’s richest families. He was a popular student.  

Kent Monkman photo by Quin West from the Kent Monkman Studio Facebook Page

In an article in the Montreal Gazette Kent says some of his most vivid memories growing up in Winnipeg were visits he made to the Manitoba Museum. The way indigenous life was portrayed in the life-size dioramas was so very different from what he saw on the Main Street strip of Winnipeg where poverty and suffering and the effects of dislocation were so clearly evident. At the museum, he saw proud indigenous people before the arrival of colonists and on the streets of Winnipeg he saw indigenous people tumbling out of bars. “I had to reconcile the idealized, pre-contact, frozen-in-time image in the museum with this reality of what the colonial project did. I remember kids looking at me and saying, ‘What happened to your people? What’s going on?’ I didn’t know how to answer them.”

A teen examines the Kent Monkman work The Deluge . Photo from the Kent Monkman Studio Facebook page

During our 2017/2018  exhibit Insurgence/Resurgence at the Winnipeg Art Gallery, we had one of Kent Monkman’s works on display and it was a huge hit especially with the Winnipeg teenagers I took on tours.  I know they will be inspired by his upcoming exhibit Shame and Prejudice.  

Kent Monkman’s painting Death of the Female-2014 is set on the streets of Winnipeg- from the Kent Monkman Studio Facebook page

One thing I want to be sure the teenagers on my tours know is that Kent Monkman is from their home city and that Winnipeg, and in particular the Winnipeg Art Gallery, played a role in shaping his art and launching him on his path to phenomenal success in the art world. I hope Kent Monkman’s work at the Winnipeg Art Gallery inspires a whole new generation of Winnipeg young people the way Robert Houle’s work inspired Kent when he was a teenager. 

Other posts………..

Old Sun and Emily Carr

Ojibwa in Paris

Art That Makes You Sick

She Is Gripped By Terror

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Are They Star Maps?

When I show these works of art by Jitish Kallat to kids at the Winnipeg Art Gallery they always think they must be star maps. The children are quite surprised when I tell them they are really raindrop maps or designs. The artist Jitish Kallat calls them Rain Studies. He makes them during the monsoon season in Mumbai, India.

Kallat uses watercolor pencils to make dark circles on woven paper.  Then during rain showers he steps outside and holds up the paper to the sky, allowing rain to fall on it for a certain number of breath cycles.  A breath cycle is breathing in and then out.  The raindrops leave an imprint on the dark circle and he sprays it to preserve it and then wipes the paper dry. In these three pieces, you can see how the length of time Kallat remains outside makes a difference in the designs.  Kallat has noted the number of breath cycles he held each circle up to the rain. The first one was for two breath cycles, the second for four and the third for seven.  Kallat uses a BC abbreviation and he pencils in the number of breath cycles by each dark circle.  He also records the time and date of each rain study. During some of the rain studies, it must have been raining quite hard and in others, quite lightly. The images do look very starlike, almost like astronomical charts. Kallat says in a New York Times interview that nature makes the artwork.  He doesn’t.  

Kallat’s Rain Studies are part of the current Vision Exchange exhibit at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. It closes in just a couple of weeks so if you haven’t seen it already you want to be sure to go before summer ends.  

Other posts about the Vision Exchange exhibit……..

Warli Art

Don’t Forget About Us

Wrestling Farmers

Carpet Conversation

Sports Equipment and Salt

Hyphenated Lives


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Warli Art- Kids Love It and You Will Too!

Gauri Gill is a photographer whose work is currently on display at the Winnipeg Art Gallery in their Vision Exchange exhibit.

In 2013 Gill visited the community of Ganjad in the north-western part of India. She was doing art with the school children there. An artist in Ganjad named Rajesh Vangad told Gauri Gill about traditional Warli painting, an art form that may have started more than 5000 years ago. The paintings were traditionally done only with white pigment made by grinding rice into a powder and mixing it with water. The women of the tribe created the artwork on the walls of their adobe houses. The paintings showed the social life and the daily routines of the Warli tribe. Warli art uses mainly circles, triangles, and squares.

After learning about Warli art from Rajesh Vangad, Gauri Gill decided to photograph him at different places in the village and invite him to draw Warli art on her photos.  Here Rajesh stands in front of the community school. His Warli art covers the photo.

A closer look at the Warli drawings Rajesh Vangad did reveal that he depicted children in the classroom and on the grounds of the school participating in all kinds of activities.  

Children writing the alphabet

Children in the science lab

Children on computers

Children doing math

Children on swings

Children having lunch

The school-age visitors I take on tours of the Winnipeg Art Gallery love looking for all these different scenes in the artwork. I have included only a few of the dozens of small scenes in the piece entitled School from Gill and Vangad’s  The Flight series.  

I always invite the children to use the Warli technique to make drawings of their own depicting themselves doing something they enjoy. Their artwork is simply delightful.

This girl drew herself painting a picture

Here another WAG visitor showed himself playing basketball

This girl loves golf

This one loves ballet

And here is a soccer player

Warli art is for everyone and the children love its simplicity and the ease with which they can create portraits with white chalk on black construction paper. 

There are several other pieces by Rajesh Vangad and Gauri Gill on display in the Vision Exchange Exhibit at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. Why not come and see them and then try making some Warli art of your own?  

Other posts……….

Don’t Forget About Us

Carpet Conversation

Sports Equipment and Salt


Filed under Art, India, winnipeg art gallery

So Tiny!

Bears by Lucie Immingnaq Qayaqsaaq -1971-whalebone and ivory

“Oooooo!  They are so tiny!”  I was taking a group of kids through a new exhibit at the Winnipeg Art Gallery called Small Worlds.  It features miniature Inuit carvings.  “How can anyone make something so small?” one of the children asked me.  “I can’t even imagine how they do it!” 

It is hard to imagine how the intricate pieces in Small Worlds were carved. That’s part of what makes the new exhibit curated by the Winnipeg Art Gallery’s assistant curator of Inuit art, Jocelyn Piirainen so fascinating and intriguing.  

Bear Hunt– unidentified artist- 1976- bone and ivory

The exhibit has nearly a hundred pieces created by Nunavut artists between 1950 and 1970. The pieces were carved to sell or trade and some were made to bring good fortune to hunters.  

Birds by Sabina Qunqnirq Anaittuq -1969- ivory and jaw bone

The miniatures have been crafted from all kinds of different materials- antler, ivory, stone, musk ox horn, whalebone, walrus tusk, sinew, seal skin, caribou skin, and wood.  In some cases, the form of the material itself has inspired the artist. 

Dancing Walrus by Alooloo Inutiq- 1980- ivory and whalebone

Some of the miniature artworks make you laugh, others tell a dramatic story and they all make you marvel at the artists’ patience. What steadiness of hand must have been required to create these tiny wonders! 

Man Standing Over Swimming Polar Bear by Leah Aarlu Makittuq -1960-69- ivory and shoe polish

Small Worlds just opened on July 20.  It is simply fascinating and not to be missed!

Snowmobile by Simon Niaqunnuaq- 1986- stone and bone

Other posts…………….

A Tiny Church

Fascinating Conversation in a Tiny Wine Shop in Lisbon

Something Tiny Can Make All the Difference


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A Dream Day At Work

Rosa Parks by Tony Scherman

“Look at her face. See the way the artist has painted 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.


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. 

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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