Monthly Archives: May 2014

A Simple Thank You Makes My Day

What Next?

The doors slid open and as soon as I stepped into the elevator I knew that the lone woman sharing the ride with me was someone whose face I had seen before. But who was she?

I was at the Winnipeg Art Gallery last Friday to give a tour to a group of high school students. I’d gone upstairs to stow my purse safely and was headed back to the foyer to welcome my tour group. 

volunteer badge winnipeg art galleryAs the elevator door shut I racked my brain trying to think who the woman was in the elevator with me. Just then she noticed the volunteer tag I was wearing around my neck. “Are you a volunteer here at the art gallery?” she asked. “Yes,” I replied. “I give tours to school groups.”

“Well,” she said. “Thank you very much for your service. Volunteers are important.”

“I’m sorry,” I said. “But I think I…

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Nicknaming Seven Great Artists

DaphneOdjigPicasso’s Grandmother. That’s Daphne Odjig’s nickname. She is one of the artists featured in the 7 Professional Native Indian Artists Inc. exhibit currently on view at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. (WAG)  

Tribute to Great Chiefs of the Past by Daphne Odjig

Tribute to Great Chiefs of the Past by Daphne Odjig

Daphne was at the heart of a group of seven aboriginal artists who were drawn together at the gallery she opened on Donald Street in Winnipeg in 1971 called Odjig Prints of Canada. Here Daphne along with six male artists Jackson Beardy, Carl Ray, Eddy Cobiness, Norval Morrisseau and Alex Janvier met to discuss prejudices they faced as First Nations artists and to share and critique one another’s work. 

The Four Seasons of '76 by Alex Janvier

The Four Seasons of ’76 by Alex Janvier

Seeing these seven artists’ paintings displayed side by side at the WAG some thirty years later, is a visual feast that provides an opportunity to observe the many common threads in the work of the group.  As I prepared for giving students tours of the exhibit I knew that I wanted them to not only enjoy the beauty of the paintings and engage with the stories they told, but to also have some sense that each of the seven contributing artists was a unique and interesting person and could be distinguished from the other six.  How could I do that on a short tour? I decided to give each artist a nickname to help the children remember them. As I started doing research to figure out what those nicknames might be I discovered to my surprise that many of the seven artists already had nicknames. Daphne odjig Daphne Odjig was dubbed  Picasso’s Grandmother by fellow artist Norval Morrisseau. Daphne discovered the paintings of Picasso in the 1950’s and carefully studied and analyzed his work. The Spanish painter once referred to Daphne as ‘a remarkable artist’. Daphne was one of four international artists asked to paint a memorial to Picasso at the Picasso Museum in France.  Daphne who is 105 years old is sometimes referred to as the Grandmother of Native Art.    Joseph Sanchez one of the Group of Seven says Daphne was indeed a ‘grandmother’ figure to them. “Her energy guided us,” he says.  She also gave artists financial support by buying their paintings for her gallery.norval morrisseau 2 A medicine woman gave Norval Morrisseau the name Copper Thunderbird when he was nineteen. He was very sick and the Anishinabbe people believed that by giving a dying person a powerful name you could fill them with energy and save them. Norval did recover after a special re-naming ceremony and subsequently always signed his paintings  as Copper Thunderbird using Cree letters.  carl rayCarl Ray was nicknamed Tall Straight Poplar because he was 6’4″tall.  

Tall Straight Poplar by Carl Ray

Tall Straight Poplar by Carl Ray

Carl who was born in northern Ontario even did a painting of a tall straight poplar he called his namesake. eddycobiness.4337.308 Eddy Cobiness was nicknamed ‘Doc’ by the other artists in the Group of Seven.The American Golden Glove boxer who had a studio on the Buffalo Point First Nations Reserve in southern Manitoba worked as a graphic designer, book illustrator, painter and fisherman. His fellow artists called him ‘Doc’ because he was so caring and supportive of them.  sanchez in hat indio dali Joseph Sanchez has an alter ego he calls Indio Dali. Sanchez who is an American First Nations artist from Arizona came to Canada and lived near Giroux Manitoba to avoid the draft during the Vietnam War. He credits Daphne Odjig with being the guiding spirit throughout his career. Sanchez is not only a painter but also a performance artist. He has a character called Indio Dali that rants about issues in the art world, aboriginal history and saving the environment.  janvier.jeo3.jpgI gave Alberta born artist Alex Janvier the nickname 287 because it is his Indian Treaty Number. Every status Indian in Canada has a registration number and Alex’s is 287.  He has used the number to sign many of his paintings. Alex was sent to residential school when he was a child and some of his work addresses that experience.  JacksonBeardy I invented a nickname, Mr. Manitoba for Jackson Beardy. He’s the only artist in the Group of Seven born in Manitoba, on the Garden Hill Reserve in 1945.  He attended residential school in Portage la Prairie, Tech Voch High School in Winnipeg and studied art at the University of Manitoba. He worked as a designer for the Sears store in Winnipeg and also as a consultant for the Manitoba Museum of Man and Nature and  Brandon University’s Department of Native Studies.  The highlight of his career was participating in a joint exhibit with Daphne Odjig and Alex Janvier at the Winnipeg Art Gallery in 1972. He died in Winnipeg at the age of 40.  Because Jackson Beardy lived and worked in Manitoba for all save four years of his life when he was in Ottawa serving as a government advisor, I picked the nickname Mr. Manitoba for him. 

Flock by Jackson Beardy

Flock by Jackson Beardy

I hope my nickname idea will help students appreciate the unique contribution of each individual artist in the Group of Seven while still enjoying the entire body of their wonderful work on display at the Winnipeg Art Gallery.  

Other posts about the Winnipeg Art Gallery….

Recognize this Reid?

An Inuit Art Primer

Lynne Cohen – Interior Scapes

Categories: Winnipeg Art Gallery | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

What in the World is a Funnelator?

funnelator winnipegWhat is that thing? I’ve walked by this interesting object outside the Millennium Library many times in the last few months and I’ve taken quite a number of photos of it. But I didn’t know what it was.  I couldn’t find any kind of sign nearby so I went in the library where the friendly staff informed me it was a funnelator. 

winnipeg's first funnelatorWhat was a funnelator? I had to find out.  I discovered the funnelator is an initiative of the  CentreVenture development group. Although the funnelator just outside the library is the first one I’ve seen,  in a 2011 article in the Winnipeg Free Press CentreVenture CEO Ross McGowan said there will be dozens of funnelators downtown in the future. funnelator graham street winnipegAccording to McGowan these funnelators will be different sizes and colours and be used as media and information centers, heating stations or shelters from rain and snow.  winnipeg's first funnalatorAn article in the Metro in December claims this first funnelator will be a test case and only when it is working effectively will others be built.  CentreVenture spokesperson Tom Janzen said on CJOB radio that the funnelator at the library is more of an art piece, there for its aesthetic value, while other funnelators may have more practical applications. 

funnelator winnipegMade of metal, polyethylene or fibreglass the funnelators are copyrighted and are absolutely unique to Winnipeg. They were designed by a Portland firm called Commart. 

funnelator winnipegApparently during the week the JUNOS were in Winnipeg the Funnelator ran a thirty minute video loop by film maker Michael Maryniuk that featured local musical groups like the Lytics, Boats and my personal favorite Royal Canoe. 

The funnelator is certainly unique and will make a great conversation piece when I am showing visitors my neighborhood. At least now I know what it is. 

Other posts about interesting art downtown,,,,,,,,


A Mural For Bill Norrie

Why No Golden Girl?


Categories: Art, Downtown | Tags: , | 2 Comments

The Pigeon King

pigeon king curtis wiebeI walk by this large crowned bird off to the side of the Air Canada building on Portage Avenue almost everyday.  The other morning I decided to stop and take some photos and find out more about the sculpture.

pigeon king by curtis wiebeThe piece is called The Pigeon King and it was created by Curtis Wiebe who is a filmmaker, animator, musician and sculptor. He is also the founder of the Winnipeg Puppet Collective. Curtis teaches art at the Winnipeg Art Gallery and Canadian Mennonite University.  

Curtis Wiebe with The Pigeon King -photo by Wayne Glowacki- Winnipeg Free Press

Curtis Wiebe with The Pigeon King -photo by Wayne Glowacki- Winnipeg Free Press

Curtis studied art at the University of Manitoba and I discovered from a 2009 article in the Winnipeg Free Press that he is from Drake, Saskatchewan, my mother’s home town. feet of pigeon

Curtis’ pigeon is pretty plump and has enormous feet. I guess it is appropriate that a bird of flight is outside the Air Canada building although The Pigeon King’s size might hamper him during take-off.

Other sculptures in downtown Winnipeg….

Have You Lost Your Marbles?

James Bond Is From Winnipeg

Women Soldiers



Categories: Downtown, Sculptures | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Embrace the Movement

What Next?

They came from all over Canada. A couple of weeks ago when I volunteered at the Mennonite Central Committee Thrift Shop on Selkirk Avenue we were inundated with two bus loads of visitors.  selkirk thrift shop visitors

These were Thrift Shop administrators, volunteers, board members and executive members from other cities. They had come to Winnipeg for a conference called Embrace the Movement where they could share ideas about how to run thrift stores more effectively and efficiently and to receive information and inspiration from guest speakers. visitors to thrift shopI talked with people from Saskatchewan, British Columbia, Ontario and other places in Manitoba. They were touring Manitoba Thrift Stores after spending a number of days attending workshops that addressed such things as recruiting volunteers, creating safe shopping and working environments, dealing peacefully and in restorative ways with shop lifters, quick merchandise turn around and handling conflict. visitors to thrift store

The people who came to tour were different ages, had…

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Trees at the Winnipeg Art Gallery

Four art pieces with connections to trees are currently displayed in the sky lit foyer on the gallery floor of the Winnipeg Art Gallery. Each sculpture is very different. barb hunt root dressRoot Dress by Barb Hunt is at the top of the stairs and draws the immediate attention of visitors. A group of high school girls on one of my tours discussed how they thought the dress symbolizes the way women are the backbone and roots of their families holding things together.

daphne by arpDaphne is by Jean Arp. Most of my touring students don’t know Daphne’s story and they are intrigued by the dramatic tale from Greek mythology of the beautiful Daphne who was being pursued by the god Apollo. Her father Laden was a river god and she begged him to help save her from Apollo. He did so by turning her into a tree.

poet by ossip zadkineThe Poet by Ossip Zadkine is a musician who is half tree and half person. Children have fun picking out all the tree parts on one half of the sculpture- the branches for his arms, the roots for his foot, the growth rings inside his thigh, the writing etched into the bark on his leg, the pruned branch on his calf and the leaves on his hands. The kids on my tours have pointed out lots of tree details I hadn’t noticed. tree of life

Tree of Life is by Cecil Richards. I tell the students who visit the gallery that many religions have a Tree of Life as a symbol for creation. Inevitably a child on the tour will suggest that the couple inside the tree is Adam and Eve and they share the Biblical story with us. I tell the kids that in Ancient Egypt there was also a religious story about a couple named Isis and Osiris who emerged from a tree. 

The presence and proximity of these tree pieces has made for an interesting addition to my tours and has inspired lots of comments and ideas from the children and young people who visit the Winnipeg Art Gallery. 

Other posts about the Winnipeg Art Gallery….

Up on the Roof Top

Landscapes For the End of Time

Lynne Cohen- Interior Scapes

Categories: Art, Sculptures, Winnipeg Art Gallery | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Mother’s Day Kitsch

What Next?

It’s the day after Mother’s Day and mothers are trying to find places to put all those lovely little gifts they received. Their hearts were touched by the sentiment the presents conveyed but what will they do with all those sweet knick knacks? I was working at the Mennonite Central Committee Thrift Store on Selkirk Avenue in Winnipeg last week and Mother’s Day kitsch was flying off our shelves. I took some photos before it was all gone.

If Mother's Were Flowers I'd Pick YouIf Mothers were flowers I’d pick you

Mother's Day Teddy BearsMother’s Day Teddy Bears

A Mother's Love Makes All Things Bright and BeautifulA mother’s love makes all things bright and beautiful

Plaque for Mother's DayPlaque for Mother’s Day

You who bears the sweetest nameTo one who bears the sweetest name

Mother's Day poem and Canada souvenir all in one ornamentA Mother’s Day poem and Canada souvenir 

What to do with your Mother’s Day kitsch? Bring it back to the Thrift Store and we’ll sell it again next year. Profits from our sales help to provide food, clothing, medical care and other…

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Lynne Cohen – Interior Scapes

lynn cohen stamp imageThis image will appear on a Canadian postage stamp in 2014. It was created by Lynne Cohen a photographer who is featured in a new exhibit at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. Lynne takes photos of interior spaces that are unusual or unique in some way. She does not create these spaces or rearrange them.  She discovers them and takes photos of them exactly as she finds them. lynne-cohen

Lynne has been a photographer for 4o years but the show at the Winnipeg Art Gallery is the first comprehensive survey of her work in Western Canada. Lynne was born in Wisconsin and studied there as well as in Michigan and London. She’s lived in Canada since 1973- primarily in Montreal and has been the winner of the $50,000 Scotia Bank prize for photography as well as the Governor General’s Award for Media and Arts. Cohen-Spa-NGCLynne does not use a digital camera but instead has an 8×10 view camera. Her photos don’t have people in them. She gives her pieces very general titles if any, and doesn’t tell us where the photos are taken or identify the objects in them. She doesn’t even always date her photos. lynne cohen spa

Are some of these urinals? Are some hand dryers? Is this in a spa? Is it in a hospital? In a European country? In Japan?  We don’t know. Cohen leaves it up to us to interpret her photos and determine their locations and contexts. This can be frustrating but also intriguing and gives her photos a kind of timeless universal quality. 

lynne cohen photographI was sad to learn that Lynne Cohen is battling cancer. In this Postmedia story she discusses her illness and her support of the decriminalization of euthanasia and doctor assisted suicide.  lynn cohen couchAlthough this photo, like Lynne’s others, is officially untitled, we do know it was taken in Venice because in 2010 Lynne along with thirteen other photographers was invited to create a portfolio of images of the city. They were featured in a special exhibition during the 2011 Venice Biennale and later some of the artists’ work was auctioned off to raise funds for a charity called Venice in Peril, a group that helps preserve the art and architecture of Venice. Cohen-Untitled-NGC

Lynne says in an interview with Bryne McLaughin  that her photographs are loaded with storytelling. As I look at Lynne’s photos with the students on the tours I give at the Winnipeg Art Gallery I will ask them to create their own stories for them.Cohen_Untitled2

Lynne frames her photographs in formica, often flecking the plastic with a colour that connects to some feature of the photograph.

The exhibit featuring her work at the Winnipeg Art Gallery is called Between Something and Nothing and runs till the end of June. 

Other posts about the Winnipeg Art Gallery……..

Up on the Rooftop

Two Diverse Members of the Group of Seven

An Inuit Art Primer

Categories: Winnipeg Art Gallery | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments


What Next?

T-4's at chocolate eventSaturday day night I was in chocolate heaven for a few hours. Along with three good friends and former teaching colleagues, I attended a chocolate dinner at the McNally Robinson Community Classroom. ChocolatourHosted by Doreen Pendgracs the author of the book Chocolatour A Quest For the World’s Best Chocolatewe not only enjoyed a delicious meal where every course featured something chocolate, we also learned so much about chocolate from Doreen and her special guest Constance Popp who is a chocolateur with her own shop here in Winnipeg on Provencher Avenue. 

The menu included………

strawberry spinach salad

A strawberry, almond spinach salad with a dressing made from quince and dark chocolate balsamic vinegar

bittersweet chocolate beef ribs

Bittersweet chocolate beef ribs for the main course

caramel pepper chocolate mousse cake

and caramel chocolate pepper mousse cake for dessert. waitress mcnally's

A lovely surprise was having a former student of ours as our server. doreen chocolatour

Doreen is a chocolate expert and in between each course she shared…

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We Are Sorry- Here and Down Under

we are sorry cathy busbyLast week I watched workers on tall ladders hang these huge banners in Eckhardt Hall, the two storey front lobby at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. The art piece they were installing is a work called We Are Sorry and was created by Cathy Busby. She has chosen excerpts from 2008 speeches by both Canada’s prime minister Stephen Harper and Australia’s prime minister Kevin Rudd.  The purpose of both speeches was to apologize for the tragedy created by the residential school system in their respective countries. Busby transferred the two prime ministers’ remarks onto 20′ x 45′ vinyl panels.

cathy busby we are sorryOriginally presented at the Winnipeg Art Gallery in 2010 at the invitation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada the artwork has also been displayed in other Canadian and Australian cities. 

Cathy Busby - photo by Luther Alexander

Cathy Busby – photo by Luther Alexander

Halifax artist Cathy Busby who has a PhD in communications and an MA in media from Concordia University in Montreal says about her work, “These apologies for the stolen generations in Australia and the Indian residential schools systems in Canada were of major significance when they were delivered, and yet each was a relatively fleeting moment. We are Sorry gives them a renewed and sustained presence highlighting the shared histories of these two British colonies.”

The Four Seasons of '76 by Alex Janvier

The Four Seasons of ’76 by Alex Janvier

It is perhaps fitting that Busby’s banners are being displayed again just as the Winnipeg Art Gallery prepares to open a new exhibit called Professional Native Indian Artists Inc. on May 10, 2014. 

Other related posts……….

Residential Schools- The Hiroshima of the Indian Nations

History Told in Pictures

Neechi Commons




Categories: History, Murals, Winnipeg Art Gallery | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

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