It always surprises me that many people don’t know about the rich cultural scene in Winnipeg. “Really?” they ask. I wonder why more Canadians aren’t aware of the breadth and depth of the arts and culture in Manitoba? Maybe it’s because the artists, musicians, writers, dancers and theatre folk in the ‘peg are too busy creating and not spending enough time marketing their creations. Maybe it’s because the Canadian media has a bias toward Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver with their larger populations. It’s probably the result of all of this, and more.
The Winnipeg Art Gallery was one of my chosen art destinations this summer. (Yes! Venice AND Winnipeg.) I was very motivated to see three of the artists featured this summer: Chagall, Karel Funk and, especially, Ether Warkov.
As sometimes happens in an art gallery, there were other artists who captured my attention the August day I visited the WAG. This is the sculpture that caused me to retrace my steps, read the introduction to the show, and look at the work more carefully…….
The retrospect of Oviloo Tunnillie’s carvings, A Woman’s Story in Stone is an extensive examination of her work, and her life. Oviloo Tunnillie is a significant Canadian artist. Not only was she one of the first female Inuit carvers, but she was one of the first Inuit carvers to depict the nude human figure. The sculptures, dating from the 1970’s through the 1990’s, begin with traditional motifs (eg. birds) and evolve into more personal subjects. Oviloo Tunnillie’s choice and treatment of subject matter are the reasons I was wrenched from my cursory amble through the show.
Here is what she said about her Sednas, the half female/half fish sea spirits:
I try to make my sure that my Sednas are a little different from other people’s Sednas. Although I’ve never seen any Sednas myself, because they live in the water or in the ocean, I make sure that they look partly wet……I do like making Sednas. And I do like the fact that someone has seen one just recently.
The work is, at times, charming as well as beautiful. Below are The Skater and Child on Sled.
Perhaps what I most admire about it is her honesty. She did not shy away from difficult topics like alcoholism, and other social ills. As a child, Oviloo Tunnillie suffered from tuberculosis, and was sent to the south of Canada for treatment. Her time in care in Toronto is represented by this sculpture…….
The show runs until September 11, 2016 in Winnipeg. Can’t get to Winnipeg before then? There is a catalogue from the show available. Commercial galleries such as Madrona Gallery (Victoria) and Marion Scott Gallery (Vancouver) sell some of her work.