Isn’t she incredibly lovely? This is my favorite image in the Pitaloosie Saila exhibit currently on display at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. The self-portrait shows the artist as a young woman. Although in reality her face is not tattooed, in this image she has portrayed herself with tattoos in the South Baffin Island style. Pitaloosie remembers her aunts having tattoos like this. Pitaloosie has put her portrait on a ulu, a traditional Inuit woman’s knife. Pitaloosie has a personal collection of ulus of many different kinds. Pitaloosie Saila is 75 years old and has been drawing and making prints since the 1960s. The exhibit currently at the Winnipeg Art Gallery provides a wonderful retrospective of her work over the years. What I like so much is that it gives us a glimpse into Pitaloosie’s personal life.
She has made a lithograph of her grandmother dancing a reel on one of the whaling ships that came into port in Cape Dorset.
In this lithograph we see four generations of Pitaloosie’s family. On the far right is her great-grandmother chewing a seal skin to soften it. In the middle is Pitaloosie’s grandmother with a more modern hairstyle and clothing. On the far left is Pitaloosie’s mother. She died when Pitaloosie was only two years old so the artist never really got to know her mother but she has dressed her in an even more modern way than the other two women. Could that be little Pitaloosie in the amauti in her mother’s parka?
Pitaloosie Saila answers questions at the Winnipeg Art Gallery on October 28
Pitaloosie was in Winnipeg for the opening of her exhibit and she told us stories about the various pieces on display.
In this stonecut Pitaloosie is playing with her wooden dolls. They were made for her by her father and uncles. The dolls had heads and bodies and legs but no arms. Pitaloosie cherished her dolls and she made clothes for them which helped her to learn sewing skills.
Pitaloosie and Aqsatunnguaq
There is a sad story behind this gorgeous watercolor of Pitaloosie and her sister. As a child Pitaloosie was sent south to hospitals for seven years because of a back injury and complications from tuberculosis. While she was gone her dear sister Aqsatunnguaq died. Pitaloosie didn’t find out till she returned home to Cape Dorset.
Arctic Madonna by Pitaloosie Saila
Pitaloosie said her artwork is a way to leave parts of her heritage to her children and grandchildren. Her artwork also provides a beautiful glimpse into her personal life for the many people who love and admire her work.
The Globalization of Art From Japan to Cape Dorset
Inuit Fashion Show
Another Shameful Chapter in Canada’s History
“The whole point of art is to perplex and confound.” Andrew Kear the chief curator at the Winnipeg Art Gallery is describing David Altmejd’s ideas about art. Altmejd’s huge detailed work The Vessel is currently on display at the Winnipeg Art Gallery and it certainly does perplex and confound. There is no easy explanation for what it is all about. Yes the piece does appear to be a kind of vessel as its name suggests, a vessel filled with a multitude of the most interesting things. We see parts of bodies…
Hands moulding and shaping things
There are containers filled with insects and…………………
Giant shapes that look like swans or musical instruments and ………………
you see spools of thread and large wooden pieces kind of like wings of some sortAndrew Kear says David Altmejd likes to see what the unintended will bring to art. He likes to discover what accidents will happen as he constructs an art piece. That makes for the creation of art that definitely makes you think and ask questions and use your imagination. I can hardly wait to show The Vessel to kids. I know they will find all kinds of things in this artwork I haven’t discovered yet.
The Beginning and End of Life
Art in Bloom
Are You Sure They Aren’t Photographs
You can still come to Books and Brushes. I am leading the book clubs at the Winnipeg Art Gallery this month. Since McNally Robinson no longer has copies of the book we will discuss Treasure Palaces: Great Writers Visit Great Museums and Winnipeg library copies are also all out, I’d suggest you read the two essays that will be the main focus of our discussion online and come and join us anyway! We’d love to have you. Here are the links to the two essays.
You can register for Books and Brushes at email@example.com
My first post about the book club is here
I am leading the book club sessions at the Winnipeg Art Gallery in November and this is your invitation to join me! Books and Brushes is a new venture. It’s designed for people who love books or love art or love both. The book we will discuss on on Tuesday November 21 from 11:30 am to 1 pm. and again on Friday November 24 from 7:30-9 pm is a perfect fit for Books and Brushes because it contains short essays by famous authors who describe their favorite art gallery or museum in the world. The book is called Treasure Palaces: Great Writers Visit Great Museums. It is edited by Maggie Fergusson. McNally Robinson book store in the Grant Park Mall has stocked up on copies and they are available in their art writing section. The nice thing about a book of essays is you can read them one at a time whenever you have a few minutes and even if you don’t read them all you can still come and enjoy talking about the ones you have read with the other book club attendees. We will look at some of the artwork mentioned by the various essay writers and then we’ll go out into the galleries at the WAG. I am excited about the ways I think we will be able to make connections between the artwork referred to in the book and the artwork in our current exhibits.
You have to sign up to attend Books and Brushes and you can do so by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org
I’d love to see you there!
Art Tours Inspired by Books- What a Great Idea!
A Bottomless Vortex of Books
Is It Art?
“She is gripped by terror!” A teenager on a tour I was leading at the Winnipeg Art Gallery made that comment as we looked at this ink drawing on mineral paper by Heather Campbell called Methylmercury.
The work shows the sea goddess Nuliajuk more commonly known as Sedna. All the creatures who live in the sea were created from Nuliajuk’s fingers after a rather horrifying episode where her father cuts her fingers off. Heather says the goddess Nuliajuk is a symbol of female power in Inuit culture.
In Methylmercury Heather wants to show the impact of a hydroelectric dam currently under construction in Muskrat Falls Labrador. A Harvard study concluded that vegetation and topsoil must first be removed from the area the dam will flood. Otherwise dangerous levels of methylmercury will be released contaminating the traditional food supply for Inuit communities downstream. CBC reported the methylmercury will create the highest risk for people in Heather’s hometown of Rigolet because people there eat the most wildlife, birds and fish. The black mass at the top of Methylmercury is filled with death symbols and a hand reaches out from it to grab Nuliajuk’s neck and force the poisonous substance down her throat. This is similar to what will happen to people who eat fish and animals contaminated with methylmercury. The look on Nuliajuk’s face is what caused the young man on my tour to comment so insightfully, “She is gripped by terror.”
Heather says the red tape binding Nuliajuk’s wrists alludes to the ongoing violence faced by indigenous women and the current inquiry about that issue underway in Canada.
Heather put tattoos on Nuliajuk because traditional Inuit tattoos are enjoying a resurgence as symbols of beauty, strength, family, community and even a form of protest.
Heather’s thought provoking work is one of the art pieces we will be discussing when I lead the Winnipeg Art Gallery’s Books and Brushes Book Club in November. You can read more about that here.
Inuit Art At The Zoo
Cut in Stone
Transferring the Real to the Unreal
She’s lucky in love!
Four Grandmothers by Dee Barsy
One of my favorite pieces in the Insurgence/Resurgence exhibit currently on view at the Winnipeg Art Gallery is Four Grandmothers by a young Winnipeg artist named Dee Barsy. Dee is originally from the Skownan First Nation in Treaty 2 territory on Waterhen Lake. She was adopted as a baby and so she has four grandmothers, two biological and two adoptive. In her artwork Dee has depicted all four grandmothers. Dee paints each one in a unique way to show their diversity but Four Grandmothers also illustrates the interconnected relationship between all her grandmothers and herself.
Detail from Four Grandmothers
In 2016 Dee met her maternal birth grandmother for the first time. In an interview with the Winnipeg Free Press Dee says “When I met her, it was hugs and, ‘I love you.’ I wasn’t expecting that.” Dee learned her grandmother had visited her in the hospital when she was a baby and had spoken to her in her native language. She marvels that her birth grandmother has remembered her for thirty years and has always loved her even though she wasn’t physically present with her granddaughter.
Detail from Four Grandmothers by Dee Barsy
Dee’s paternal adopted grandmother passed away on Mothers Day this year. Dee reflects on the courage her grandmother showed in the last weeks of her life. Looking at Dee’s painting you realize she has learned things from each of her grandmothers. Creating her artwork has made Dee contemplate grief and loss and reunification and love. She says when she thinks about her adoptive and biological grandmothers she realizes “how I’m so lucky to have so much love in my life. ”
With three of my grandmothers at my wedding
I always think of myself as having four grandmothers too because when I got married I inherited two more who became very special to me. Looking at Dee’s painting makes me think about each of my four grandmothers and what was unique about them and how they have influenced my life.
On a tour of Insurgence/Resurgence with eight year olds I invited them to use felt shapes to create portraits of people they loved in Dee’s style. They did a beautiful job and it was heartwarming to hear them each describe their artwork and tell me about family members with whom they share the same kind of love Dee shares with her grandmothers.
Zip Ties and The Three Little Pigs
Gone But Not Forgotten
This Looks Familiar
“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