Category Archives: winnipeg art gallery

Why Are They Difficult Women?

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. 

Other posts…….

The Famous Five

The Woman Who Loves Giraffes

International Women’s Day

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Art in Bloom

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. 

Other posts……….

Women in Bloom

Farewell to the French Moderns

A Serendipitous Coincidence

Mummering- David Blackwell

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Clay Conversations

robert archimbeau“Hello Robert!”  The children I am taking on a tour at the Winnipeg Art Gallery greet the photo of eighty-six year old Robert Archambeau.  I tell them all the pottery they see in the room around them was made by Robert. conversations in clayWe go over to look at the name of the exhibit A Conversation in Clay.  I ask the children what a conversation is and they all know. I tell them we are going to have a clay conversation with a friend but first we will practice how to do that together. We walk over to a group of tea pots Robert has created and talk about them using a Clay Conversation guide I’ve made.  The kids contribute so many great ideas. ceramic teapotsThey each know which teapot they like best. They notice that some teapots’ surfaces look smooth like a marble  and others look rough like sandpaper. They point out that one of the pots has a different handle than the rest. They love the rainbow colors on one and wonder if they could put hot chocolate in the pots. 

Then I send them off in pairs with a copy of the discussion guide to have conversations with a partner about the other pieces in the room. Later we get together so everyone can share what they talked about. robert archimbeau ceramicsThey tell me these pieces would be perfect for storing magic potions. pots archimbeauThe pair discussing these pots thinks one looks like a chocolate cake and the other like an apple. They say the containers could be used for cookie jars or cooking pots or for storing rice. bowls archimbeauThe children would eat soup or cereal from these bowls and they notice how each one is a different height and color and has a kind of foot or stand on the bottom. ceramics winnipeg art galleryI am told that one of these pieces looks like a honeycomb, another an acorn squash and still another has a design that reminds them of tree bark or snake skin. salad platesThese plates each with a unique leaf design inside would be perfect for eating salad. clay pot childNow I give the children clay and they fashion pieces of their own. child's clay potI love this tea cup with a happy face inside. flower potThis one is a flower vase. bagel potAnd this one reminds some of the kids of a poppy seed bagel. 

robert archimbeauAs we leave the gallery we go back to Robert’s photo to say good-bye.  His works of art have created lots of great conversations and provided inspiration for our own art. 

Other posts…………..

Stories in Stone

Portraits in Plasticene

A Head Trio

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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

 

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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

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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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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

 

 

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