“Part of the …inspiration for the work was the The Three Little Pigs fable.” Tiffany Shaw Collinge is talking about her piece Trap Line Cabin currently on display as part of the Insurgence/Resurgence exhibition at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. Tiffany wondered which of the trap line cabins she constructed was the strongest and might survive the harsh Canadian weather much like the brick house survived the huffing and puffing of the wolf in the Three Little Pigs story.
Tiffany’s three dimensional houses replicate the frame of a cabin her great grandfather Jean Paulin built on his trap line near Ft. McMurray Alberta. A trap line is a route trappers map out for themselves and use season after season. They place traps all along the route to snare fur bearing animals. Trappers move along the route repeatedly during the winter to check the traps. Since trapline routes can take several days to walk shelters need to be erected along the way for night stays. These are called trap line cabins.
Making the trap line cabins was part of Tiffany’s process of reclaiming her Metis heritage. Three of them were displayed at the 2012 Venice Biennale as part of a larger work called Migrating Landscapes created by a Canadian team of artists.
Tiffany who has studied art and architecture at universities in Edmonton, Victoria, Halifax and Los Angeles says she made two of the cabins out of mirrors and decorated them with floral patterns created by her great grandmother Maggie Paulin. Her great grandmother used the floral patterns on the mocassins she made. The crocheted cabin pays tribute to Tiffany’s mother, aunts and grandmother who taught her how to sew and knit and crochet. The deer hide used in another cabin comes from her family home in Fort McMurray Alberta and the birch bark to make another cabin came from an area near Edmonton sacred to indigenous people.
That leaves the cabin made from zip ties. Tiffany doesn’t give a definitive reason for making a cabin from zip ties except to suggest that perhaps they introduce a more modern technological element into the cabin display.
Last week I was giving a tour to a group of grade nines that included several students from indigenous backgrounds. I explained Tiffany’s reasons for choosing the other cabin materials but said I couldn’t quite understand why she had chosen zip ties for one of the trap line cabins.
“That’s easy,” said one of the boys on my tour. “Zip ties can be used for trapping animals.” He then proceeded to describe how to construct a snare from zip ties that could be used for catching small prey. Sure enough when I got home I searched online and found a survival website that suggested creating an animal snare out of zip ties and even a video of how to catch a small animal in a zip tie trap.
I don’t know whether Tiffany was thinking of zip tie snares when she made the trap line cabin out of zip ties but the idea certainly added another dimension to my understanding of the artwork. The visitors I tour at the Winnipeg Art Gallery never fail to give me new ideas about the art we explore together as they share their own personal connections and insights. It is one of the things that makes it so interesting to be a tour guide.
Gone But Not Forgotten
Nature is a big inspiration for artist Casey Koyczan. He likes to find materials that are considered dead in nature and give them a second chance at life. He starts with a vision, sources his materials, and then chooses the best spot to create one of his large scale installations.
The skylight on the gallery floor of the Winnipeg Art Gallery is the spot Casey has chosen for his installation Gone But Not Forgotten. It is part of the current Insurgence/Resurgence exhibit. The dead materials he has chosen are branches from the Red and Assiniboine Rivers. Tragically the bodies of many indigenous people have been found in the river waters. Casey says their spirit and souls live on in these branches from the river. Thus the dead branches have a second chance at life.
Casey’s installations often take on the traits of amorphous beings that invade spaces in modern architecture. His piece Gone But Not Forgotten at the Winnipeg Art Gallery certainly does that.
On his Facebook page Casey says his installation Gone But Not Forgotten “pushes for recognition and remembrance of the women, children, and men that we have lost over the years in Canada due to the injustices, mistreatment, and economic scrutiny First Nations people face on a daily basis.
They Look Like Photographs
This Looks Familiar
Transferring the Real to the Unreal
“I’ve seen that design before,” I said as I examined the beadwork on the clothing of these two mannequins in the current exhibit Insurgence/Resurgence at the Winnipeg Art Gallery.The fashions were created by Barry Ace an Anishinaabe artist from Ottawa. The beautiful beadwork on the dancers’ clothing…..
Beadwork on a bandolier bag by Barry Ace at the Art Gallery of Ontario
reminded me of beadwork I had seen on a trio of bandolier bags in the Art Gallery of Ontario in July. Sure enough when I looked back at the photos I’d taken at the AGO the beadwork on the bandolier bags was exactly the same as on the dancers’ clothing at the WAG. I discovered both had been created by Barry Ace.
According to the information provided by the AGO the designs on the dresses and bags replicate floral motifs from traditional Great Lakes area beadwork. Barry has made them with recycled electronic capacitors and resistors. The kinds of flowers which Barry has chosen to replicate are medicinal ones that store and release healing power. In much the same way capacitors and resistors store and release energy and power in electrical circuits. Interestingly on one of the bandolier bags on display at the AGO Barry had included an image from a silent film made on Manitoulin Island in 1925 of traditional dancers performing for government officials. Barry says it is ironic that while amendments to the Indian Act of 1876 banned all such dances the people were still allowed to perform them for high-ranking officials. As we look at the dancers in the Insurgence/Resurgence exhibit it is good to remember that such cultural practices like dances were banned by the Canadian government from 1884-1951. The woman’s dress has a skirt that is reminiscent of those worn by jingle dancers. Rows of metal cones on her skirt jingle as she dances. According to this article the jingle dress was created by an Ojibwa father whose daughter was very ill. He had a vision of her dancing in a jingle dress and being healed. He instructed his daughter how to make the dress and do the dance. She did and recovered. Later she taught other women how to make the dress and do the jingle dance.
What’s a Bandolier Bag?
Ojibwa in Paris
Countless white ovals catching the light as they dangle from the ceiling on threads make up the art installation cloudscape by Hannah Claus now on display in Ekhardt Hall at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. A Queens University Journal article says cloudscape was inspired by a Haudenosaunee creation story. The Haudenosaunee or ‘people of the long house’ include the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, and Seneca. In the creation story Sky Woman comes down to earth from a world above. She then creates the land and everything that lives on it. Hannah Claus says she has tried to recreate the ethereal world where Sky Woman lived. What would it feel like to walk in a world like that? Hannah used an animated 3D computer program to help create cloudscape.
On the artouteast website Hannah says, “Clouds are basically masses of suspended drops of water in the sky, constantly shifting.” Her cloud art works express her interest in how all those microscopic drops come together to form different patterns and shapes. In an article on her website Hannah says clouds suggest creativity and community to her.
In her website biography Hannah compares her suspended art to wampum belts. Wampum means ‘river made by hand.’ On the Haudenosaunee website there is a detailed description of how wampum beads were made from clam shells and then strung together to form wampum belts. A wampum belt served as a sign that you held a certain office like chief or clan mother and was passed on to new officers. The beads on the belt represented different events in the history of the office and could be interpreted by specially trained warriors familiar with their nation’s past. Wampum beads can be traced back to the pre-colonial time of Hiawatha. Hiawatha’s wampum belt contained 6,574 beads. Hannah Claus, the creator of cloudscape studied at the Ontario College of Art and Design and received her masters at Concordia University. She is Mohawk from the Bay of Quinte on the north shore of Lake Ontario. Her work has been exhibited in Europe, South America and Central America. She lives and works in Montreal.
On Instagram Hannah is known as Cloudmaker. Very appropriate!
Our Heads in the Clouds
Creation of the World
He’s toasting us with a cocktail. This interesting plate is part of the current Picasso exhibit at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. It is titled Cavalier Faun. The creature on the horse is a mythical faun, half goat and half human. If you look closely you can see his horns. One of the participants on a tour I led said the faces around the edge depict the crowd seated around the bull fighting ring.
With his drink glass tilted jauntily in one hand the faun isn’t as serious a picador as one might expect to see at a bullfight. His eyes are looking at us the viewers, rather than straight ahead to see where the horse is going. One gallery visitor on a tour I was leading said the line at the bottom of the horse makes it look almost like a toy rocking horse. They thought the horse looked a little bull legged.
The design The Cavalier Faun served Picasso well. He used it on many plain white earthenware plates and also on a series of gold medallions.
Picasso was born in Spain and attended many bullfights. His fascination with the sport is evidenced in other works currently on display at the Winnipeg Art Gallery like the lino cut above called Le Banderilla.
Picasso Not Really a Family Man
“Are there any hidden messages in the paintings?” I was starting a tour with some elementary school students at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. I told them we would be like detectives or explorers looking for interesting details in the art. One girl put up her hand to ask if I knew of any hidden or secret messages in the paintings. Luckily I had an idea where we could find one.
Women in a Hat With Flowers by Picasso 1944
As we viewed this painting Picasso made of his lover Dora Maar I asked the children if they could find Dora’s name hidden in the painting. It didn’t take them long to pick out the four letters. Check out the arrows.
The upper case D
The letter o
The cursive r
The letter A two ways- a lower case backwards one to the right or an uppercase sideways one to the left
The children thought it was very cool Picasso hid Dora’s name in his painting of her. It got them searching for hidden messages in every piece of art. The intense looking that inspired helped them discover lots of other interesting things about the artwork they viewed.
What in the World is That?
Plants That Talked to Me
Two Artists -Me and My Grandson
They were from Shanghai and Beijing and Shenzhen and Kunming and many other places I have visited. I had the pleasure of taking a Chinese community group of Winnipeg residents on a tour of the Picasso exhibit at the Winnipeg Art Gallery last week. I lived in Hong Kong for six years and so it was interesting to find out where people in the group came from and to compare notes about their home cities. I had visited most of them.
It was my first tour with a translator and so I had to give information in small bits and then wait while it was translated into Mandarin. Hearing Mandarin spoken again, and talking with the tour participants about places that I had come to know, made me nostalgic. It was a nice feeling though. I’m not sorry I live in Canada now but chatting with my tour participants from China brought back fond memories of the time I spent in Asia.
Dancing in Shangri-La
Ai Wei Wei
Stick Stick Men