As you can see from this photo I’m having a delightful time! Recently I had the privilege of taking a group of people from Siloam Mission through the Winnipeg Art Gallery. I usually give tours to school groups so I am always a little apprehensive when I’m asked to guide adults. I needn’t have worried! The experience with the Siloam community was great ! In this photo we are looking at a painting by the great Canadian artist Emily Carr. One of my tour participants knew so much about Emily and her work. I learned a lot from him. And there were other people on my tour who taught me things about Chagall and Rembrandt and Inuit whale bone sculptures and the art of scrimshaw. I had heard of Siloam and the work they do but I have never visited their location on Princess Street. It was an eye-opening experience to meet and learn from the Siloam Mission folks. In this photo we are looking at work by Winnipeg’s own Wanda Koop. Wanda who has an important international presence in the art world hails from inner city Winnipeg and took her first art classes at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. She won those lessons in a contest and it set her on the road to a remarkable career. The Siloam visitors were so interested in her story.
Rachel Baerg the Head of Education at the Winnipeg Art Gallery led another tour group from Siloam
One of the reasons I love working at the Winnipeg Art Gallery is because it is a place that tries to be welcoming and invitational to everyone and as a result I get to meet so many interesting and amazing people. I hope Siloam Mission will come back for another visit. If they do I’ll be the first guide in line to offer to lead the tour.
Note: The photos in the post were taken by Al Foster and are used here with his kind permission.
What’s a Portscape?
The Dakota Boat
The Winnipeg Art Gallery is awash with flowers this weekend. A special event called Art in Bloom has paired floral designers and their creations with works of art. I attended yesterday and there was almost too much beauty to take in so I decided to focus on artwork featuring women. What kind of floral art had been created to accompany their portraits?
Scottish artist Henry Raeburn’s Portrait of a Woman is a painting I often stop at when I am giving art gallery tours and together with my visitors we try to figure out everything we can about the lovely woman pictured. Who is she? What kind of family does she come from? What is she thinking and feeling? Why did she have her portrait painted?
Floral designer Heather Page created this arrangement as a tribute to Henry Raeburn’s lovely lady. She decided a traditional bouquet would best compliment the classic style of the portrait.
This 1630 painting of St. Cecilia the patron saint of music by Giuseppe Puglia shows a cherub interrupting St. Cecilia’s violin playing and pointing out something in a sheaf of music. Did the beloved saint who inspired so many composers miss a note or play a certain passage with exquisite beauty? Exquisite beauty probably best describes the arrangement of delicate pink roses Saint Cecilia inspired floral designer Mari Loewen to create.
The Farmer’s Daughter is by Prudence Heward a Canadian artist who sometimes exhibited with The Group of Seven. Floral designer Michele Pitre tried to imagine what the girl in the portrait was looking at and decided she might be staring off into a cool forest. So Michele created this natural arrangement complete with birch bark and woodland flowers and grasses.
Daphne Odjig’s Friends Rejoicing is a recent gallery acquisition and I love its vibrant, joyful colors. The happy women in the painting are celebrating the birth of a child. Floral interpreters Paul Jordan and Jordan Maegher are both in management positions at The Forks in Winnipeg. The Forks is a place of friendship, connection and the bright diversity of the prairies. They felt Daphne Odjig’s painting reflected those values as well.
I was delighted to discover this floral arrangement by Bernice Klassen. Bernice and I attended the same church for many years and our sons were the same age. Bernice was drawn to the orange hues in Ivan Eyre’s Women and Interior because orange is the color of courage. Elements in Bernice’s bold arrangement also echo the vase of flowers in the painting. One of my favorite combinations was this arrangement by floral designer Dorothy Vannan created for English artist Dorothea Sharp’s impressionist work In the Orchard that features a woman picking fruit.
The weather is going to be cold and wintry this weekend but you can escape at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. There’s coffee in the lobby to warm your body and in the galleries you will find lots of lovely flowers and beautiful art to warm your soul.
Flowers of Costa Rica
Flowers of Jamaica
Trilliums- Food For the Soul
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.
Blood Upon the Rose
A Storyboard in a Painting
Whale Bone Sculptures
William Kurelek’s painting Zaporozhian Cossacks has been added to one of the collections on display at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. The title Zaporozhian Cossacks immediately connected with me personally. We stayed in the city of Zaporozhia in Ukraine during the week we were exploring the places where our grandparents had lived before coming to Canada as refugees.
Posing on a cossack horse in front of the historic oak tree near Zaporizhia Ukraine.
We also took photos at a giant oak tree that was a gathering place for cossacks in the Zaporozhia area hundreds of years ago.
In his painting William Kurelek tells the story of a Zaporozhian cossack named Taras Bulba. While a student in Kiev Taras’s son Andriy falls in love with the daughter of a Polish noble. Andriy returns home and his father orders him to take part in a military campaign against the Poles. During the battle Andriy discovers the girl he loves is among the Poles starving to death inside a city the cossacks have surrounded. Andriy smuggles food in to her. His father kills him for his treasonous act.
I think the man in the colorful clothes at the centre of the painting is Taras. I am speculating Tarus is talking to a man named Yankel who was the informer that told Taras of his son’s betrayal. But he could also be talking to his own son Andriy who is begging for mercy. I think these are the cossacks dancing and singing on one side of the paintingwhile on the other side in the background we see the starving Poles inside the besieged city. Could that be Andriy’s executioner in the left foreground wielding a sword? I was particularly drawn to the group of men to the right of the executioner. They seem unperturbed by the chaos around them as they play music and pet a dog. I wish I could talk to William Kurelek about the painting and ask him what he has depicted in its various sections. But as I always tell the children I guide at the gallery each viewer finds their own story in a piece of art. That’s what makes visiting an art gallery so interesting.
Like me artist William Kurelek was from a Canadian Ukrainian immigrant family. Kurelek lived on a farm near Stonewall Manitoba as a child and when he was a teenager his family moved to Winnipeg where William studied art at the University of Manitoba. Later he took classes at a fine arts school in Mexico where he was influenced by muralists like Diego Rivera. He painted Zaporzhian Cossacks as a tribute to his father in 1952 just before William moved to England. William is probably best known to Canadians for his illustrations of the books A Prairie Boy’s Winter and A Prairie Boy’s Summer.
Another Chortitza Oak
The Dark Side of William Kurelek
It was gone! I was sad when I returned to my job at the Winnipeg Art Gallery after a holiday to find the most popular painting in our Group of Seven room was gone.
I loved Clouds by Lawren Harris. It is always a favorite with children on tours. I usually ask kids to walk slowly around the Group of Seven exhibit room looking carefully at all the art pieces. Then I have them vote for their top two paintings. Clouds was always a sure-fire winner. But now it was gone and had been replaced by Alfred Casson’s Morning Light.
Morning Light- Mazinaw Lake 1968- Alfred Casson
Imagine my surprise when on my first Group of Seven tour after my holidays Morning Light was the hands down favorite of the kids just like Clouds had been. Some said Cassion’s painting seemed strangely familiar to them. It reminded one girl of a mountain she had seen on cruise in Costa Rica. Another told me there were rocks like the ones in Morning Light at her family cottage near Kenora. A boy said he’d seen cliff jumping on TV and he thought the cliffs in the painting would be fun to jump from. Another fellow pointed out the monster’s claw he could see in the cloud formation. Someone thought the shadows on the lake and rocks looked a little scary.
I still miss Lawren Harris’ Clouds but I’m not as sad anymore that it is gone. Its absence and its replacement with the Casson painting means visitors at the gallery will be introduced to another great painting by a Group of Seven member; another great painting that stirs their imaginations and links them to personal memories.
Love My Job
The Horizon Line
Autumn at the Art Gallery
I was absolutely delighted when I found out the Winnipeg Art Gallery would be displaying Wanda Koop’s portscapes again. Never heard of a portscape? That’s the name a lively ten year old boy created last week to describe Wanda’s intriguing series of landscapes skillfully drawn inside faces. I was giving a tour at the Winnipeg Art Gallery to grade five and six students. We had been in the Group of Seven gallery looking at landscapes. We talked about what a landscape is. Then I took the students into another gallery where we examined portraits and tried to figure out what we could learn about the people in the portraits by looking carefully at how the artist drew them. Finally we visited Wanda Koop’s View From Here exhibit. “Are these portraits or landscapes?” I asked the kids. One boy piped up enthusiastically. “They are portraits AND landscapes. We should call them portscapes.”
“That’s perfect,” I said excitedly. “Can I tell other people who come to the art gallery about your new word?”
“Sure,” he said grinning broadly. We went on to examine each of Wanda’s portscapes figuring out how she had used things in her landscapes to create facial features for each portrait.
Then I had the students create some portscapes of their own. They did a great job.
One reason I love giving tours to children at the art gallery is because every single time I learn something new from them. This week I learned about portscapes. What are portscapes? Come to the Winnipeg Art Gallery to see Wanda Koop’s View From Here and find out!
Portraits or Landscapes?
Haunted by Ghosts
Through the Eyes of A Child
The Winnipeg Art Gallery is all boarded up these days. There are surfboards, skateboards and snowboards on view in our Boarder X exhibit. The works by indigenous artists get you thinking about our relationship to the environment and other people in new ways. The bright surfboards in the photo above come from Australia and were created by artist Vernon Ah Kee. They have aboriginal rainforest designs on the front and use the colors from the Australian aboriginal flag. On the back of each surfboard are black and white portraits of Vernon’s relatives. Only half of their faces are shown. The colorful surfboards are surrounded by texts that were chanted during race riots in Sydney Australia in 2005
and accompained by a provocative and at times jarring video.
You can stand in front of this cityscape of Winnipeg for a long time finding new and interesting things in it. It was created by Roger Crait, who was a passionate skateboarder as a teen and young adult. To me the wings on the planes and insects look like painted skateboards and there are skateboards hiding in other places too. Both skateboarding and painting are activities that require lots of practice if you want to become skilled at them.
These cedar boards were designed by Jordan Bennet who is from Newfoundland. They were inspired by stories he heard about the land and the history of his people.
I had some elementary school students in the art gallery this week and I gave them a whole variety of felt shapes to make designs of their own in Jordan Bennet’s style. They came up with some pretty creative stuff. There’s a fascinating trio of pieces related to snowboarding. First this digital photograph by Mason Mashon where the tiny snowboarder surveys the route ahead and…..
and then these two pieces Sky Blanket and Clouds by weaver Meghann O’Brien.
Mark Igloliorte shows viewers the similarities between kayaking and skateboarding in his video installation
Skateboard-Kayak- Flip- Roll.
Boarder X brings together elements you might not think have lots in common but you’ll be excited to see how they do and you’ll find lots of personal connections of your own as you walk through the exhibit.
The Dakota Boat
Parfleches for the Last Supper
A Controversial Statue