Tag Archives: winnipeg art gallery

Stories in Stone

The skylight area of the Winnipeg Art Gallery is currently home to eight stunning pieces by Inuit sculptor Abraham Anghik Ruben all made from Brazilian soapstone. 

Raven Creation by Abraham Anghik Ruben

Many of the Ruben sculptures depict Inuit legends and stories. On his website Ruben writes: “I have chosen to be a story teller for my people through the medium of sculpture. . . . I no longer speak my mother tongue, yet I need to do my part in carrying on the stories and cultural myths, legends and spiritual legacy of our people.” With his art Ruben is carrying on in the tradition of his mother Bertha Thrasher who he describes as a story teller and a keeper of traditions.  

Sedna the Enchantress by Abraham Anghik Ruben

The story of Sedna is told in the piece Sedna The Enchantress.  Sedna was a young Inuit woman whose father put her in a boat to try to help her escape from her husband who had turned out to be someone different than she thought when she married him.  When the vengeful husband tries to sink their boat the father cuts off all his daughter’s fingers and pushes her into the sea in order to save his own life.  Sedna becomes a mermaid and the ends of her fingers turn into all the creatures that live in the ocean.  

Raven Creation Myth by Abraham Anghik Ruben

The story of The Raven is illustrated in three pieces in the current Ruben display.  The Raven created the world from a snowball that formed on his wing. The snowball grew and grew. As Raven landed on the snowball his beak moved back to reveal a human head and his wings moved back to reveal feet and hands.

Raven Creation Myth by Abraham Anghik Ruben

Raven formed the plants and trees from bits of clay.  A pea pod plant burst open and people came out. Raven made animals from clay.  One that didn’t turn out as Raven planned was a large serpent and Raven killed it to protect his human creations. He threw stars into the sky to remind human beings that he was their creator and protector. 

First Flight- Abraham Anghik Ruben

Two contrasting pieces in the exhibit depict a shaman.  In one the shaman is joyfully turning into a bird

Silent Drum by Abraham Anghik Ruben

and in the other the shaman has died and has been buried in a shallow grave.

Shaman and Bear Spirits by Abraham Anghik Ruben

In an interview given for a  2013 article in the Arctic Journal Ruben says both his grandparents and great grandparents were keepers of the shaman tradition. ”The shaman is an intermediary between the physical and spiritual world. But also carries on oral traditions, myths and legend,” Ruben explains. 

Shaman’s Transformation by Abraham Anghik Ruben

Ruben traveled by dog team as a child with his parents hunting polar bears, caribou and beluga whales.  In 1957 when he was seven years old he was sent to residential school and remained there for almost a decade. It was an experience Ruben describes as “the dark night of my soul.”

Raven Spirit Protector by Abraham Anghik Ruben

After leaving school he went to the University of Alaska and studied at the Native Art Center there.  He has gone on to become one of Canada’s most successful and well-known Inuit sculptors. 

His work is displayed next to that of Norvel Morriseau at the Winnipeg Art Gallery in an exhibit entitled Shaman Stories. 

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Oviloo Tunille

Bright Bold and Beautiful




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Talk About Defying Convention

“I don’t want to trickle out. I want to pour until the pail is empty- the last going out in a gush, not in drops.”

Emily Carr said that to her family and friends who tried to stop her from going to paint in the forests of British Columbia in the last years of her life.  Dealing with ongoing mental and physical health challenges Emily was determined to continue painting.  She said to a friend, “I must go into the forest again.  The forest still has something to say to me and I must hear it.” 

tree movement emily carr 1937-1938

Tree Movement by Emily Carr 1937-1938- Winnipeg Art Gallery Collection

An article in Macleans magazine written a few years after Emily’s death in 1945 says “trees danced for her and she made them dance in her paintings. Gangling tree tops were ballet dancers bowing to nature.”

emily carr in her caravan

Emily Carr and her animals in her caravan -Photo from the British Columbia archives

Never one to bow to the conventions of society Emily would camp out in the woods later in her life in a large caravan she dubbed “The Elephant” with her menagerie of animals-  her dogs- she raised sheep dogs and had many other canine pets. She also had cats, a pet monkey Woo, a white rat, a parrot, canaries and chickens. 

emily carr -cove- winnipeg art gallery

Cove by Emily Carr- Collection of the Winnipeg Art Gallery

Emily is one of the artists featured in a current exhibition at the Winnipeg Art Gallery called Defying Convention.  Emily snubbed convention in so many ways. She was a troublesome child who tore her clothes climbing trees and fences. She talked to cows and embarrassed her sisters with her outspokenness. She studied in Europe in 1900 and again in 1910 but her paintings didn’t sell when she returned to her home in Victoria British Columbia.  They were too unconventional. 

totem and trees 1912

Totem and Trees by Emily Carr 1912

Spending time in First Nations communities in British Columbia was certainly an unconventional thing for a single unaccompanied  woman to do in the early 1900s, especially traveling there in a dugout canoe and by horseback. But Emily did just that. She forged many important relationships in these communities and her First Nations friends nicknamed her Kleewyck- ‘The Laughing One.’ Emily documented the totem poles and scenes of daily life in the villages she visited. 

Silver gelatin print of Emily Carr in her studio in 1939 by Harold Mortimer-Lamb

Photograph of Emily Carr by Harold Mortimer Lamb 1939 

Even Emily’s appearance was unconventional.  Defying the fashion trends of the day she dressed in loose-fitting smocks, wore orthopedic stockings and covered her hair with a net cap. 

Emily Carr with her pets in the backyard of her boarding house on Simcoe Street in Victoria BC. -Photo from the archives of the British Columbia Royal Museum

Emily made a living by running a boarding house and was known by her tenants for her eccentricities and her quick temper. She only had time to paint after a busy day of tending to her house and boarders and pets. 

klee wyckEmily’s statement at the beginning of this blog post that she didn’t want to trickle out of life certainly came true. In the last five years of her life her career as a writer flourished and ‘gushed’. Her first book Klee Wyck won the Governor General’s Literary Award in 1941 and her second novel The Book of Small was named Book of the Year in Canada in 1942.  Just before her death in 1945 she completed her autobiography Growing Pains.

Even after her death Emily defied convention by becoming a success when many people thought she never would. Sadly she did not live long enough to witness the eventual popularity of her artwork. Emily usually sold her paintings for $35-$50.  In 2013 a painting of Emily’s sold for over $3 million. 

The Defying Convention exhibit at the Winnipeg Art Gallery includes work by Emily Carr and many other women who defied convention in various ways as they tried to find a place for themselves in the male dominated art world of the early 1900s.  

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Women Painting Men

Klee Wyck



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Women Painting Men

There’s a brilliant new exhibition at the Winnipeg Art Gallery called Defying Convention. It features female Canadian artists who were defying convention in the first half of the twentieth century by trying to earn a place for themselves in an art world dominated and controlled by men. 

Western Industries (Steel Pour, Vulcan Iron Works- Winnipeg ) c. 1939 by Georgie Wilcox

Western Industries (Steel Pour, Vulcan Iron Works- Winnipeg ) c. 1939 by Georgie Wilcox- an iron works would have been considered rather a hazardous place for a woman to be painting in the 1930s

This is a rich exhibition that I absolutely love so it will probably give rise to any number of blog posts but this one was inspired by a group of grade eight boys I was touring through Defying Convention. I told the boys the exhibit was a collection of work by women artists and they pointed to the painting above and asked, “Why are there men in the paintings then?”  I had to clarify that the artists and not the subjects of the paintings were women, but those boys got me thinking of how men are portrayed by women in the exhibit. 

The Village Blacksmith by Marion Nelson Hooker 1905

The Village Blacksmith by Marion Nelson Hooker 1905

It probably would not have been considered very ‘proper’ in 1905 for a woman to paint a half nude blacksmith especially for Marion Nelson Hooker who was very active in the traditional Anglican church. Marion Nelson Hooker did paint this brawny blacksmith when she was still a single woman. In 1907 she moved from Ontario to Selkirk Manitoba to marry a widower with six children. A condition of the marriage was that she would be allowed to continue her painting. Her new husband provided her with a studio for doing just that.

At the UN by Pegi Nicol MacLeod c.1945

Pegi Nicol MacLeod was a Canadian painter living in New York City  when Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson commissioned her to do a painting of the United Nations General Assembly.  Pearson was very involved with the United Nations after World War II, serving as the President of the General Assembly and earning a Nobel Prize for his work as a peacekeeper.  A similar United Nations painting of Pegi Nicol MacLeod’s  sold recently at the Mayberry Gallery in Winnipeg.   Pearson commissioned the United Nations paintings so you might think he would have asked  Pegi Nicol MacLeod to paint him at the speaker’s podium, but the person at the podium in this one looks suspiciously like a woman.  I know this painting must have been done in 1947 because that is when the second session of the United Nations General Assembly was held in Flushing Meadow New York in an old exhibition hall. The third session was held there too in the fall of 1949 but by then Pegi Nicol Macleod had died.  Pierre Berton gives a detailed and colorful description of this meeting in a November 1947 article in Macleans magazine. The photo in the magazine matches Pegi’s painting.  In the sea of men she has painted Pegi Nicol MacLeod appears to have included three women- one on the podium and two to the far right.  According to Pierre Berton’s article the wives of many of the delegates were in attendance and the ushers were women but the head of the Indian delegation was also a woman Mrs. Vijaya Lakasmi Pandit. Could she be one of the two women on the right or is she at the podium? Pierre Berton also mentions the names of some female journalists at the meeting. 

The Boy With a Red Cap by Lucille Casey MacArthur 1891-1898

This boy looks like he is must be in his late teens. He has a classic face, seems to be bare chested and his hair and cap have a a softer quality about them in contrast to his rather sharp features.  The Boy With A Red Cap was painted by Lucille Casey MacArthur who moved to Winnipeg from Mississippi with her husband in 1884. She studied in Europe and on her return to Winnipeg held an exhibition that some say was well attended because of Lucille’s nude section of paintings. She was definitely a defier of convention. 

You don’t want to miss the Defying Convention exhibit. This blog is just a tiny taste of the variety of pieces on display by nearly forty different women brave and determined enough to make their way in what was definitely a man’s world or art in the early 20th century. 

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Children Are Going To Love Her

Klee Wyck

Transferring the Real to the Unreal


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Linda’s Garden

linda fairfield in the plantsMeet Linda Fairfield, artist and plant lover who set out to create an illustration of every single wildflower in Manitoba.  She didn’t achieve her goal before she died last June but she left a treasure trove of absolutely lovely and unique paintings of our province’s native flowers. She called her collection  ‘The Garden.”  An exhibit of work from “The Garden”  is now on display at the Winnipeg Art Gallery.  It was curated by Nicole Fletcher. 

fairfield prarie crocusI was drawn to Linda’s beautiful and delicate depiction of Manitoba’s floral emblem.  I have learned that sadly the prairie crocus is dwindling in numbers in our province. 

saxifrageLinda traveled the province to discover wild flowers. She illustrated a book by Karen Johnson that catalogued the wildflowers of Churchill and the Hudson’ Bay Region.

fairfield wild parsnipSome of Linda’s illustrations highlight the parts of the plants- the leaves, blooms and roots.

fair field prairie cloverIn others Linda chooses to include a sketch of the habitat where the flower grows, perhaps where she discovered it.Quite a number of Linda’s illustrations are displayed alongsidespecimens of the flower from the University of Manitoba’s collection  The Plants of Manitoba. 

fairfield golden rodThere are three special displays in the exhibit.  fairfield prickly pear cactusOne features Manitoba flowers that are edible. 

fairfield wild cucumberAnother flowers that are toxic and poisonous. 

fairfield lady slipperAnd finally one that showcases the beauty of Manitoba’s more than forty native species of orchids. 

fairfield wild roseLinda’s obituary in the Toronto Globe and Mail says Linda worked at her wildflower project over a fifty year period.  The recent donation of 233 of her illustrations to the Winnipeg Art Gallery by her family insures that Linda’s work will be treasured and appreciated by Manitobans for decades to come. 

If you are longing to see the wild flowers of Manitoba bloom and spring just isn’t coming fast enough for you head over to the Winnipeg Art Gallery and get your flower fix in Linda’s Garden. 

Other posts…….

Moose Lake’s Wild Flowers

Portugal in Bloom

Flowers of Costa Rica

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I Recline With Henry Moore’s Reclining Figure at Lisbon’s Museu Coleção Berardo and Connect With the Winnipeg Art Gallery

“It’s a Henry Moore.  I am certain,” I said as I approached a sculpture on the grounds of Lisbon’s Museu Coleção Berardo.  “How do you know?” my husband was skeptical.  “We have a Henry Moore sculpture on display on the roof top of the Winnipeg Art Gallery every summer,” I said.  It’s called Reclining Figure . I always get the kids on my tours to lie down and try to copy the statue’s form with their own bodies. “

Sure enough when I showed my husband the didactic panel on the sculpture at Lisbon’s modern art gallery it was a Henry Moore and it was called Reclining Figure too.  My husband insisted on taking photos of me with the Moore sculpture his way!

I told Dave there was a Kent Monkman painting currently on display as part of the Insurgence/Resurgence exhibit at the Winnipeg gallery that includes a reference to Henry Moore.  

Death of The Female by Kent Monkman- Notice the reclining figure like Henry Moore’s on the front yard of a house in Winnipeg’s north end

Inside the Lisbon art gallery I found another Henry Moore piece. 

Stringed Figure by Henry Moore

The Henry Moore connection was just one tantalizing tidbit of the absolutely wonderful afternoon we spent at Lisbon’s Museu Coleção Berardo. It holds such a rich cache of modern art and on weekends which is when we visited it was FREE!  I’ll share more in future blog posts.

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Matching- The Winnipeg Art Gallery and The Nelson Atkins Museum

Whale Bone Sculptures

Kirchner- Finding An Old Friend


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She Started To Cry

Hustle & Bustle /Downriver House by Bruno Canadien is one of the pieces currently on display in the Insurgence Resurgence exhibit at the Winnipeg Art Gallery.  Bruno Canadien lives in Alberta and is a member of a northern Dene First Nation in the Deh Gah Got’ı́é Kǫ́ę́, Deh Cho Region. His artwork contains images of his northern home.  There are flowers, forests, caribou, fishermen, oil wells and smoke stacks. 

hustle bustle Downriver House by Bruno CanadienOne of the activities we do with gallery visitors after we look at Bruno’s artwork is have them make a similar collage about their home.  They choose objects from trays we provide and place them on a colored paper in ways that represent home to them. 

Last week I did the activity with group of international students that included a young woman from China. One item she chose for her collage was a picture of a phone.  She told us in China she had wanted to be independent from her parents and resented having to still live in the same house with them.  But now that she is far away in Canada she starts to cry whenever she talks to her parents on the phone because she misses them so much. As she told us this she started to cry and I had to reach out and give her a comforting hug. 

I loved the way a young woman from Beijing was inspired to share her personal feelings, thanks to a painting by a Canadian indigenous artist. Art is truly a universal language.

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Mennonite Floor Art

A Very Personal Story

Are You Confused Yet?

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Mennonite Floor Art

Look at those beautiful floors!  friesen house barn neubergthalIn August of 2016 I toured the Friesen heritage house in the southern Manitoba village of Neubergthal with friends.  I took the photo below of one of the floors in the home. It intrigued me. floor tiles friesen house neubergthal

I saw that same pattern recently when I visited the gift shop at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. Neubergthal artist Margruite Krahn’s show Resurfacing: Mennonite Floor Patterns is currently on display and you don’t want to miss seeing her work.  Margruite has been involved in the restoration of Neubergthal since 2001.  Neubergthal is a Mennonite street village founded in 1876 and a national historic site.  Margruite became fascinated with the beautiful patterns found hand painted on the wooden floors of the some of the oldest homes in the village.

Upstairs Bedroom by Margruite Krahn

These hand painted floor patterns were created by Mennonite women often during the long winter months.  Floor painting is an art Margruite believes they brought over with them from Prussia when they migrated to Canada in the 1870s. Margruite decided to try to recreate some of the designs herself on cotton canvas.  The results are beautiful but also completely practical.  Although at the WAG gift shop the floor cloths are hung on the wall they are extremely durable and can be placed on the floor and used in a functional way.

Canvas carpet created in 2005

Margruite says some of her canvas floor clothes were made already in 2005 and still look great after more than a decade of foot traffic. Not all of Margruite’s canvases were inspired by floor patterns.  This one was found on a trap door in the Klippenstein home in Neubergthal. 

Margruite traveled to other Mennonite villages as well looking for painted floor boards and found them sometimes under layers of carpet and linoleum.  This pattern was discovered in a house in Grunthal Manitoba owned by a Driedger family.  I wonder if they could be relatives of mine? Margruite says that while the petals on the flowers in floral patterns were usually painted with a brush the centre circle was stamped using a potato or some other vegetable. 

Margruite based this artwork on a geometric floor pattern she found in a Gerbrandt house in Sommerfeld Manitoba. She has discovered some 26 different patterns so far.

777 Boxes of Grace by Margruite Krahn from the Herdsman House in Neubergthal

I encourage you to go to the Winnipeg Art Gallery gift shop and check out Margruite’s unique work.  You can find out more about Margruite on her website and read more about her work with floor patterns there too.  

Other posts…………

The T-4s Go Mennonite in Neubergthal

The Brommtop and Cross Dressing Mennonites

By Design



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