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.
A Different Kind of Snow Angel
India Assaults the Senses
The Heros Walk
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?
One 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.
Woman with Amautik and Stroller in Cape Dorset by Ansgar Walk
It is still being used today.
Traditional Amauti- photograph by Jean Saint Martin- Clyde River Nunavut – 2004
Inuit Fashion Show
A Very Personal Story
Looking Cool the Inuit Way
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.
The Book of Creation
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!
Bold and Beautiful
Two Diverse Member of the Group of Seven
Difficult Women is the name of a series of portraits by Canadian artist Tony Scherman. Scherman uses an ancient technique called encaustic for his paintings creating them from hot wax and pigment. The current exhibition of Tony Scherman’s work at the Winnipeg Art Gallery features five portraits of women from Scherman’s Difficult Women series. I tried to figure out why each of them might be called difficult. Britain’s first female prime minister (1979-1990) Margaret Thatcher found her entry into politics difficult. The first two times she ran for Parliament she lost. It was difficult to unseat her once she became prime minister. She is the only 20th century British leader to serve three terms in office.The Soviets dubbed Margaret Thatcher The Iron Lady because of the difficulty of negotiating with her. It was difficult to get the better of her. When Argentina tried to take the Falkland Islands from Britain in 1982 she sent her troops to get it back. When the miners of Britain went on strike in 1984 she refused to give into their demands. The Irish Republican Army tried to kill her in 1984 by bombing a hotel where she was staying. Margaret survived! The police wanted her to go into hiding for a time after that but she refused. Margaret was a difficult woman who knew her own mind. To her things were black and white. “I want to end the conflict between good and evil in the world,” she said with bravado. “Good will triumph.”Margaux Hemingway, granddaughter of the famous author Ernest Hemingway, had such a sad and difficult life. She was a movie actress and a super model who secured a million dollar contract to be the face of Babe perfume for the Faberge company. But she struggled with many difficult addictions and took her own life at age 42 as did six other people in her famous family. Margaux had epilepsy and was dyslexic. She was sexually abused by her father and godfather. Margaux was famous and wealthy. But to say her life was difficult is an understatement. Simone De Beauvoir made things difficult for men who thought they were superior to women. She is often called The Mother of Feminism. Simone wrote a book in 1949 called The Second Sex that became extremely popular and questioned why women had let men dominate them for so long. Simone argued that women were just as capable as men of making wise choices. They needed to be independent and equal human beings. In 1928 she was one of only a handful of French women to receive a university degree. Although deeply religious as a child Simone had difficulty with the offensive patriarchy of the Christian church and became an atheist. Her father trying to understand his difficult child once said, “she thinks like a man.”Mary Magdalene has sometimes been a difficult Biblical character for the Christian church to deal with. She is mentioned in 65 passages in the Bible and took a leadership role in Jesus’ ministry, supporting him financially and emotionally. She stood at the cross when Jesus died and along with other women was the first to witness Jesus’ resurrection. The western church with its patriarchal leadership has sometimes tried to downplay her role in Jesus’ life by depicting her as a prostitute, although there is no evidence for that. The Gospel of Mary, a religious text discovered in the mid 1800s portrays her as a very wise woman who acted as a spiritual counselor to Jesus. Some scholars even suggest she was Jesus’ wife or lover which would of course be difficult for many Christians to accept. She is portrayed that way in the musical Jesus Christ Superstar and in the novel The Da Vinci Code. Throughout history Mary Magdalene has been a difficult Biblical character to figure out. Rosa Parks is a key figure in the American Civil Rights movement. One day she made things very difficult for the driver of a bus in Montgomery, Alabama when she refused to give up her seat to a white passenger. She was arrested and caused difficulty for the police when she refused to pay her fine. Rosa’s actions inspired a bus boycott by black passengers which made things very difficult for the white owners of the bus companies. The boycott eventually led to the Supreme Court of the United State declaring that the segregation laws in Alabama were unconstitutional. The difficult fight for equal civil rights for black citizens of the United States continues but the difficult and resolute Rosa Parks inspired some huge steps forward in that fight.
The Difficult Women series represents just a fraction of the collection of amazing paintings by Tony Scherman now on view at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. You won’t want to miss seeing them.
The Famous Five
The Woman Who Loves Giraffes
International Women’s Day
Vallee by Jean-Paul Riopelle – flowers by Pam Simmons – Coreniche Consulting Inc.
On Thursday night I was privileged to attend the gala opening of the Art in Bloom event at the Winnipeg Art Gallery.
Portrait of a Lady by Sir Henry Raeburn- Flowers by Joan Todd- Petals West
The heady aroma of thousands of flowers wafted over me the minute I stepped through the door.
Now There Goes A Pipe With A Man by Peter Doig – flowers by Hennie Corrin and Rachel Nedelec- WAG Board of Directors
I had such fun chatting with other guests, talking about the art and the flowers with my companions for the evening, sipping wine and enjoying the delicious dainty sandwiches and bevy of desserts.
The Story by George Reid -Flowers by Peter Hargreaves and Ed Becenko – Spurnik Architecture Inc.
I was intrigued by the many different ways talented members of the community had created floral works of art.
Flowers with Zinnias and Dahlias in a Bowl by Herni de Fantin-Latour -Flowers by Erlyn Andaya- Academy Florist
Their designs served to compliment and enrich and sometimes even prompt viewers to reinterpret the paintings and sculptures on display in the galleries.
Sounds Assembling by Bertram Brooker- Flowers by Dawn Ormiston- Petals West
Believe me it was hard to pick the Art in Bloom photos I wanted to feature on this blog post.
In The Orchard by Dorothea Sharp- Flowers by Marisa Curatolo- Marisa Curatolo Culinary
Hopefully it will be enough to whet your appetite and to entice you downtown either today or tomorrow to see all the marvelous works of art that are part of the Art in Bloom event. It may not feel like spring outside but it looks and feels like spring inside the Winnipeg Art Gallery.
Women in Bloom
Farewell to the French Moderns
A Serendipitous Coincidence
Mummering- David Blackwell