“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
A new display of Inuit artwork on the mezzanine level of the Winnipeg Gallery includes this popular piece called Migration by Joe Talirunili. It tells the story of a harrowing time in Joe’s childhood. I found many different versions of the story on the internet but here is my compilation. Joe and his family and some friends were going back home on their sleds after a celebration on an island in Hudson’s Bay. The ice under them began to break up and they were trapped on an ice floe. They had to work fast before the ice floe broke up further, but they managed to use the wood from their sleds and some seal skins to make a boat that got them to shore. The shoreline was made up of very steep rock and so they secured their boat with a rope and waited. The wind blew incredibly hard for almost a week making it too dangerous for them to leave. They nearly starved to death before the weather let up and they were able to find their way home. Some people lost their lives at various points in the tragic story. Joe made some thirty carvings of this adventure all called Migration. One of Joe’s Migration sculptures was featured on a Canadian stamp in 1976 the year he died, and in 2006 another sold at auction for $278,000 the highest price ever for a single Inuit artwork.
Other posts about Inuit artists………
Getting to Know Oviloo
Transferring the Real to the Unreal
Falling in Love
The roof is one of my favorite places to take children when they visit the Winnipeg Art Gallery. They love the idea of being on the very top of the building. The roof top is closed in winter but lately the beautiful weather has meant we can be outside again. The signature work on the roof top is this inukshuk sculpture by Manasie Akpaliapik. The children and I look at it carefully and marvel at how the artist got all those uniquely shaped pieces of rock to balance. I use illustrations to discuss the different kinds of inukshuks built by the Inuit and the purpose of each one. Then I let some of the children try on the snow goggles that you might have used if you were an explorer in the Arctic searching for an inukshuk. The goggles which prevent snow blindness are a work of art themselves. After that it’s time to let the children use baskets of blocks to create inukshuks of their own. They come up with all kinds of interesting designs. They gain a real appreciation for artist Manasie Akpaliapik’s work as they try to balance the pieces in their own inukshuk. Last week I was marveling at just how creative all our young visitors to the gallery are, so I decided to take a few photos of their inukshuks. If you’ve never been on the Winnipeg Art Gallery roof top be sure to go up there on your next visit. If you let me know you are coming I can join you with our baskets of blocks.
Portraits in Plasticene
What’s a Portscape?
Love My Job
On Monday Angela Roulette taught the Winnipeg Art Gallery tour guides about story sticks. Angela began by using her own stick to tell us her life story. We learned her mother was from the Sandy Bay First Nations community and her father was from the Ebb and Flow First Nations community. We discovered her former husband liked to sew and that her son-in-law was from Jamaica. We heard interesting stories about her grandchildren and the diverse group of people she came to know while participating in the Standing Rock protest. In all her stories Angela emphasized the four things we can do to change the world …….. be kind, be honest, be strong and share what you have.
After Angela had told us about her story stick it was our turn to make our own story sticks. My story stick had many items including three beads to represent my siblings, feathers for my sons and a shell for our family’s lakeside cottage.
Story sticks are a great way to reflect on the important and influential people and experiences in your own life and to share your story with others.
Who Do Family Stories Belong To?
Stitching a Story
The Remarkable Story of the Runaway Bay Resource Centre
Brave, determined, nothing stops her, fierce, fights for what’s right, she persisted
A group of highschool students were inspired to write that poem after looking at the black and white image above created by Shelley Niro. Shelley is one of the winners of the 2017 Governor General’s award for art achievement. Her work is currently on display at the Winnipeg Art Gallery along with that of the other Governor General’s winners. As students view Shelley’s woodcut series called Resting With Warriors they are invited to dress up in moccasins and sashes similar to the ones worn by the women in Shelley’s artwork. Then students write words or phrases to describe each woman. Later they get into groups to arrange those words into a poem like the one that starts this blog post.
Shelley’s art is very much influenced by the bead, birchbark and carving work she saw being created around her while growing up on the Mohawk Nation near Brantford Ontario. She is dedicated to producing art that contributes to aboriginal identity in Canada. In a film interview she says she particularly likes seeing the way young girls react to her work. She wants to provide them with an alternate image of aboriginal women, one not usually seen in the mass media. Shelley is an artist adept at film making, painting, beadwork, photography and sculpture.
If you visit the Winnipeg Art Gallery right now you can also see another installation by Shelley Niro called Final Moments Thinking of You. A tour group of high school students I had in the gallery last week told me the title could mean two things. One is that the world is in its final moments because of climate change and environmental damage so the photos are a way to say good-bye to the elements of earth, water, fire and air. Another interpretation was that these are images a person is seeing just before they die. They loved nature so these are the things they would see in their final moments.
I am looking forward to seeing what other creative ideas Shelley’s work will inspire with the students who are privileged to see her work at the Winnipeg Art Gallery.
Getting to know Oviloo Tunille
Falling in Love with Elisapee Ishulutaq
Creation of the World by Daphne Odjig
A popular new activity we have been trying at the Winnipeg Art Gallery on our school tours is portrait creation with plasticine. It engages even the most reluctant visitors. I’ve found it works especially well with a series of portraits located quite close to one another in our Modernist Tradition gallery. I tell the kids they can try to recreate one of the portraits, combine features from several or create their own unique portrait.
Younger gallery visitors aren’t sure they would like to meet Professor Felix Walter whose portrait was done by Charles Fraser Comfort in 1933. They tell me the professor’s eyebrows are too bushy and his hands too bony. Older students however are intrigued by the professor.
The kids invariably comment on Helen Esterman‘s long neck in this bronze portrait of her by Sir Jacob Epstein done in 1948.
Junior highs seem especially enamored with Rubber Lips a 1997 work by Janet Werner.
Younger students often identify most closely with The Farmer’s Daughter a portrait done by Prudence Heward in 1938. We try to give time for some kind of art activity on every tour we do with students at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. We want them to feel like they are artists too and can be creative just like the artists whose work they are seeing. Their plasticine masterpieces show just how creative so many of them are!!
I Love Art
Sunday Afternoon at the Winnipeg Art Gallery