In 1986 when the curators of the Picasso Museum in Antibes France decided to paint a memorial artwork to honour Picasso, a Canadian woman was chosen as one of four artists from around the world to help create the memorial. Her name was Daphne Odjig.
Daphne died last year at age 97 after a remarkable career. She was dubbed Picasso’s Grandmother by fellow indigenous artist Norval Morrisseau. Daphne discovered the paintings of Picasso in the 1950s and carefully studied and analyzed his work. Picasso upon seeing Daphne’s work at an exhibition called her ‘a remarkable artist’.
Tribute to Picasso by Daphne Odjig
Daphne is sometimes referred to as the Grandmother of Indigenous Art. Joseph Sanchez says Daphne was indeed a ‘grandmother’ figure to many indigenous artists. “Her energy guided us,” he says. She also gave indigenous artists financial support by buying their paintings for her gallery.
I always end my Picasso tours at the Winnipeg Art Gallery by going to look at Daphne’s painting Friends Rejoicing in our collection and tell my tour participants about Canada’s Grandmother Picasso.
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A Different View of the World
Two paintings displayed side by side at the Winnipeg Art Gallery have an Easter message for me.
The first one is And Peter Followed From Afar Off by American painter William Ashby McCloy. It is a Good Friday scene. Jesus is hanging upside down on a cross shaped like an X. Over to the right you can see Jesus’ disciple Peter who denounced Jesus three times. The cock that crowed after the three betrayals is pictured. So are the people Peter spoke with denying he had any connections to Jesus. Could the man in front be Judas who betrayed Jesus for money? Artist McCloy gives us a grey, sad canvas full of rejection, violence and guilt.
Right beside the crucifixion painting is this vibrant and heart lifting canvas by the famous First Nations artist Daphne Odjig. It is called Friends Rejoicing. A group of women are celebrating the birth of a child. Easter is a time of rebirth and new beginnings and Daphne’s painting fairly bursts with the joy of a new beginning and the happiness it brings to a community of people. For me it beautifully captures the spirit of Easter Sunday a day to celebrate the resurrection of hope.
I have no idea why the curator chose to place these two paintings side by side, but I love their juxtaposition. One of our former guides at the WAG Perry Nodelman gave a talk at the University of Valencia in Spain in March. He said that in an art gallery…..
…..where pictures are hung, how the floor plan of the galleries invites viewers to move through them— makes each picture part of a larger text, a larger story…
The way these two paintings are placed in the gallery makes them part of the Easter story for me.
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