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 But now it was gone and had been replaced by Alfred Casson’s Morning Light.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
The Owl stonecut on paper by Lukta Qiatsuk- 1959
Stone block for The Owl by Lukta Qiatsuk 1959
For me the most fascinating room in the Our Land exhibit currently on display at the Winnipeg Art Gallery is the one featuring a series of stone cut prints. There are many different ways Inuit artists make prints but stone cuts are unique. In the Our Land exhibit we are fortunate enough to be able to see not only the prints, but also the stone cuts used to make them. The Owl is interesting because the same artist, Lukta Qiatsuk drew the image and created the stone cut to be used for the print. Often however the artist who creates the image for the print is different from the carver who recreates the image in the stone.
Weir at Shartoweektok by Pitseolak Ashoona- 1975
The image for this print was drawn by one artist…
Stone block for Weir at Sharoweetok by Sagiatuk Sagiatuk and Timothy Ottochie-1975
But the stone block was carved by two different artists. Once they had carved the image in stone the printmakers applied colored ink to it using a tool called a brayer and then laid a sheet of paper on the inked block and rubbed the back of the paper using a flat tool to apply even pressure. After the ink had soaked into the paper, the paper was peeled carefully from the stone block to reveal the printed impression. The image on the print always appears in reverse of the original drawing.
Angakuk’s Tent by Ikayukta Tunnillie
The art of stone cut printmaking is new to Inuit artists. It was introduced by James Houston an artist who went to the Arctic to work after World War II and in 1958 traveled to Japan to study woodcut printmaking with Japanese masters of the art. Houston shared what he had learned with Inuit artists and they adapted the woodcut technique for stone.
Stone block for Angakuk’s Tent by Qabaroak Qatsiya 1975
Normally when a printmaker has made about 50 prints the stone carving that created it is ground flat. So we are fortunate the ones in the exhibit have been preserved for us to see. The exhibit Our Land includes a film showing how the prints are made and a display case with some of the tools used in the printmaking process.
The Globalization of Art from Japan to Cape Dorset
Learning to Print
Transferring the Real to the Unreal
I am absolutely fascinated by this trio of heads created in clay by Inuit artist Robert Tatty. They are part of the Our Land exhibit currently on view at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. Each face is so unique and there are animals and people all over the heads. This person looks relatively happy. Their mouth is open showing teeth in a smile. Perched on top of the head is a person watching while two bears approach each other. Are they ready to fight? Or is it a mother approaching her child to protect it?If you look at that same head from the back the person appears to be scaling some sort of rock face and there seems to be an igloo at the top.
This person definitely looks sad. Notice how the tails of the creatures on either side of the mouth draw the ends of the mouth down. The animals look a bit like bears, but they have flipper- like appendages and are perhaps transforming from one kind of animal into another. The one at the top seems almost ready to fly away. This person looks stoic. Do you notice how their ears are formed by some kind of creature? The fox or bear on top seems to have sprouted wings. While the other two heads feature eyes half closed this one’s eyes are wide open and recessed. The rear view features a person looking at some kind of lizard that appears to have crawled out of a hole. And flying downwards are winged creatures with tiny heads and pawed feet.
Photo of Robert Tatty at work taken by John Reeves
Robert Tatty who was born in 1927 is the creator of these pieces. Here you can read about how his Inuit father successfully ran a Hudson’s Bay post at Ukkusiksalik. Robert’s biological father was one of the previous managers. Here Robert’s wife Annie talks about her arranged marriage to Robert when she was sixteen and how they lived in Rankin Inlet for most of their married life. Robert initially worked in the nickel mines there. In 1962 the mines closed and an arts and crafts project began in Rankin Inlet as a way to encourage local people to try their hand at carving, sewing and ceramics. By 1966 the Rankin Inlet Ceramics Project was producing a large number of works which were critically praised. However sales lagged and in 1977 the workshop closed. From 1978 to 1980 Robert and Annie moved back to Robert’s childhood home in Ukkusiksalik where Robert worked as a hunting guide. Ill health and their children’s education needs eventually took them back to Rankin Inlet. Robert died in 2009.
Stitching a Story
Inuit Fashion Show
Transferring the Real to the Unreal
She is the master of the herringbone stitch! Inuit fabric artist Elizabeth Angrnaqquaq uses the herringbone stitch almost exclusively in her artwork, but what a story she can weave with that stitch. This untitled work of Elizabeth’s is one of the fascinating pieces in the wall hanging section of the current exhibit Our Land at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. Take a closer look at Elizabeth’s piece and you can see a happy family near the top. Where are they off to? There is a kayaker with a dog perched precariously on the back of his boat. What is it doing there? Two characters appear to be shouting at each other. What are they upset about? Two people are dancing. Are they celebrating or mourning something? Elizabeth was born in 1916 and her family lived a nomadic life till starvation and poor health forced them to settle in Baker Lake. Here Elizabeth become part of a sewing cooperative and was one of the first women in Baker Lake to use her talents as a seamstress to make wall hangings instead of clothing. In some of her hangings not only the figures but much of the space between them is covered in stitches. Elizabeth’s magic needle can turn the herringbone stitch into a bird’s feather, a dog’s hair or a fish’s scales.
Fanny Algaalaga Avatituq is the creator of this hanging. Fanny also comes from Baker Lake but is forty years younger than Elizabeth Angrnaqquaq. Although both women stitch with embroidery floss Fanny’s work is brighter, denser and more detailed. The children I take through the galleries like to play a kind of I Spy game with this wall hanging looking for animals hiding in the leaves and flowers. A couple of figures are in the process of transformation.
There are so many stories waiting to be told in this hanging by Victoria Mamngupsualuk Kayuryuk. It depicts an Inuit shaman named Keeveeok or Kiviuq who some say has lived for thousands of years. There are countless legends of Kiviuq’s journeys and adventures. Filmaker James Houston compiled information from interviews with forty different Inuit elders to make a movie about Kiviuq in 2007. On Houston’s website you can read different versions of six stories about Kiviuq with titles like Grizzly Bear, The Storm at Sea and Goose Wife.
Fishing in the Weir by Martha Kakee
Martha Kakee who wove Fishing in the Weir says she wanted to show how things were done in days gone by with her artwork. Here she shows us how fishing weirs were built by piling stones at the mouth of rivers in a crescent shape to make a wall to trap the fish. People waded into the river and hooked the fish with long-handled spears called kakivat. A needle was passed through the fish under the spine to add it onto a stringer.
Irene Avaalaaqiaq Tiktaalaaq has a bold colourful style that makes her work easily recognizable. In this hanging we can see the interplay between humans and animals. What stories of the spirits is Irene depicting here? Irene’s pieces are based on Inuit myths and legends told by her grandmother who adopted her when her parents died. Her interesting shamanistic figures usually show heads in profile and duplicate. Perhaps some of these figures are the story tellers themselves.
Other posts about Our Land
Inuit Fashion Show
Transferring the Real to the Unreal
Did you know that traditional Inuit parkas were constructed in a way that corresponded to the parts of a caribou? The hoods and hats were made from the skin on a caribou’s head. The hide from the torso was used for sewing pants and the jacket. Fur from the caribou’s legs became mittens, socks and boots. Caribou outfits have two layers. On the inner layer the fur faces in and on the outer layer it faces out.
The exhibit Our Land currently at the Winnipeg Art Gallery has plenty of fashion items that illustrate the artistic talents of their designers and creators.
Check out this fashionable head-gear made from caribou and ermine fur and the skin, feathers and beak of a loon. It was used by loon dancers who danced as fast as they could to set the piece of ermine fur attached to the beak into a spin. The loon is a bird of vision and speed and it is said that those who wear this loon hat are granted those gifts as well. I sometimes tell the children I guide at the gallery the legend of Lumak a blind child whose sight is restored by a loon.
Of course no fashion ensemble is complete without jewelry. This fabulous piece is made of caribou antler, stone and sinew by an artist named Papiarak Tuqiqi. Can you even imagine how skilled as seamstress you would have to be to create one of these beautiful amautiks? These are special parkas worn by Inuit women with young children because they have a pouch or amaut on the back for carrying babies. The pouch can be slung to the front allowing the mother to nurse a child while the infant stays cozy and warm. One of the amautiks is made of caribou the other of cotton decorated with beads. One of my favorite pieces in the Our Land exhibit has to be this lithograph by Pitaloosie Saila called Four Generations which shows a family of Inuit women in their parkas. Can you see the baby girl tucked into the woman’s hood on the far right? She’s the fourth generation. This parka has quite the story associated with it. It belonged to an Inuit shaman named Qingalisaq and was sewn to tell the story of his encounter with a dangerous mountain spirit called an Ijirat. The spirit approached him while Qingalisaq was hunting caribou and tried to push him down. Because Qingalisaq maintained his calm composure the spirit realized he meant him no harm and left. You can see the imprint of the Ijirat’s hands on the coat. Although the Inuit women of long ago who had their bodies decorated with tattoos thought them beautiful and a kind of fashion statement they served other purposes as well, signifying the advent of childbearing years and a protection from evil spirits. Germaine Arnaktauyok the artist who created this lithograph called Tattoo Lady discovered that tattooing was done with soot and a caribou needle and tattoos have been found on masks in the Cape Dorset area dating back to 1000 BC. I found an interesting article that talks about young Inuit women who are trying to revive the art of tattooing which was banned by missionaries when they arrived in the Arctic.
Fashion is definitely art as you will discover when you visit the Our Land exhibit at the Winnipeg Art Gallery.
Looking Cool the Inuit Way
Inuit Art at the Zoo