Posts Tagged ‘history’

Identity.  What springs to mind when you hear the word identity?  And how does that relate to art?

Let’s now take those general questions and narrow it down to the work of three artists, or photographers to be more precise: Suzy Lake, Lori Blondeau, and Shelley Niro.  I haven’t chosen those women randomly; I’m writing about them because their work is on view if you go to the Ryerson Image Centre.  Suzy Lake’s photos are on display in the main gallery inside while Lori Blondeau and Shelley Niro’s are showing outside.  The latter two were installed as part of the CONTACT Photography Festival.

below:  Three large images of the Lori Blondeau draped in red while standing on a rock adorn three of the large boulders in Devonian Square.   They are part of her “Asiniy Iskwew” work.  The title is Cree and translates to “Rock Woman”.    In this work, the rocks on which she stands refer back to Mistaseni which was a large sacred boulder that once marked a gathering place.   The Saskatchewan government dynamited it in the 1960’s to make room for a man made lake.

photograph or painting of a woman in red standing on a rock, directly onto the surface of a large rock in a shallow pool of water outside Ryerson Image Center, three large black and white photographs of people's heads are above and behind the artwork

The words on the wall say that Blondeau questions (“interrogates”) how the definitions of Indigenous identity are influenced by popular media and culture, not just in this exhibit but in the rest of her art as well.   Her point here is that pictures of strong woman run counter to how popular culture portrays Indigenous women.

photograph or painting of a woman in red standing on a rock, directly onto the surface of a large rock in a shallow pool of water

My questions – What and/or who shapes your identity?  That question can mean “Your” as in you the individual and it can mean “Your” as in some collective group that you belong to.     How does identity evolve?  Can it be changed?

How does history affect your identity?  As one who has done a lot of genealogy research I understand the importance of history to some people.  I have traced my Canadian ancestors – I know where they’re buried and I know where they lived.   For me that is a comfort.  But I also know that if you want to kill a conversation just bring up the subject of genealogy.  Not everyone is interested.

Back to photography and history –

A second indigenous woman artist is Shelley Niro whose work is titled “Battlefield of my Ancestors”.  It consists of 6 photographs that were taken in upstate New York and in southwestern Ontario.  The pictures are in the garden with the statue of Egerton Ryerson (1803 – 1880), the man who Ryerson University is named after.   He was many things including a Methodist minister, a founder of Victoria College (part of the University of Toronto), a Chief Superintendent of Education for Upper Canada, and the person who wrote a report/study on Native education (1847) that became the model for the residential schools thirty years later.

below: Ryerson standing in the greenery with a picture on either side of him.  On the left is a picture of a plaque in New York state that says: “Site of Indian village Gar-Non-De-Yo destroyed during Sullivan campaign Sept 21, 1779”.  On the right is a black and white picture of the Mohawk River in New York state.

statue of Egerton Ryerson in a small garden with shrubs and small trees. Two large photographs also in the picture, one on each side of the statue

below:  Photo taken of a rock at Cayuga Lake.

photo of a small plaque on a rock exhibited amongst shrubs and greenery outside

The plaque says:
Site of “A very pretty Indian town of ten houses” burned September 21, 1779. See page 76 “Journals of the military expedition of Major General John Sullivan” published by the state

Back a few lines I called Niro an “indigenous woman artist”.   I don’t know if she’d be comfortable with that.  Maybe yes, maybe no.   I used those words because they help to understand her work in the context of this blog.   Should I then use the description “white woman artist” to talk about the third person, Suzy Lake?

Lake’s photography career began in the 1970’s and for the first two decades was primarily concerned with female identity.  In almost all her photos, she is the subject.  The 1970’s were the days of  Women’s Lib and the rise of “Feminism” – the quest for political reforms on issues such as reproductive rights, domestic violence, maternity leave, and equal pay.  It was also a time of increased questioning of cultural norms with regard to women’s roles.  In many ways it resembled the increase of awareness of indigenous identity, rights, and problems that we see today.

large black and white photograph in a gallery, two men on top of a large frame are controlling the movements of a human puppet

 large photo in a gallery of a women dressed just in a long slip, sweeping up debris from the floor. Debris is bits and chunks of plaster that have been removed from the wall

below: Her most recent work involves pictures of her standing in an environment of some sort.  The photo is a one hour exposure and the end result is an image where only she and inanimate objects are present and in focus.  Here is “Extended Breathing in the Rivera Frescos” 2013-2014.   The painting behind her is one in a series by Mexican artist Diego Rivera at the Detroit Institute of the Arts.

three suzy lake photos, one of her in front of a mural and two are close ups of her face

colour photo of close up of a woman's face, just mouth, bottom part of nose and some cheek. She is wearing bright red lipstick

Mt. Pleasant cemetery is the final resting place of about 168,000 people.  A small percentage of those are interred within mausoleums, some of which are fancier than others.   The following is a sample of the architecture of the mausoleums that I have seen there (including the doors of course).

below: The Eaton family mausoleum with its corinthian columns.   Timothy Eaton is buried here, the founder of the Eatons department store chain (that no longer exists).  Timothy apprenticed to a merchant in Ireland before emigrating to Canada.  After working in a number of stores in Ontario, he purchased a business at the SW corner of Yonge & Queen.  His store was one of the first to sell goods at a fixed price and only for cash…. no bargaining and no credit.

entrance to Eaton tomb/vault at Mt. Pleasant cemetery, two lions beside the steps that lead to the metal door, large corninthian columns on either side of the door.

fancy stone work over the top of the metal door in the Eaton vault. door is greenish colour with age

close up of a pane in a window with a metal window frame, square with lines dividing the pane into 8 triangles, stained glass window in the background. Looking into a vault at a cemetery

below: The Cox family mausoleum which was built in 1905. Sixteen people are buried here including George Albertus Cox (1840-1914) a business man and Senator, his two wives Margaret (d. 1905) and Amy (d. 1915) and their six children.   The building was designed by Sproat & Rolph who were the same architects that designed the Canada Life Building and the Royal York Hotel.  It cost $50,000 to build.

a metal door in a building in a cemetery, three large columns on each side of the door

below: Detail of the flower motif on the windows of the door above.

looking through the metal bars of a window, bars have little flower shaped metal pieces on it, looking into vault in cemetery, stained glas window in the background.

below: Robert Emmet Kelly died in 1915 while on his honeymoon in Atlantic City.  His wife Bessie had this monument built in his honour.  She was buried there when she died in 1964, 50 years after her husband.

small building in cemetery with words Robert Emmet Kelly carved in stone across the top of the door

below: Last, but not least, the Just sisters.   This mausoleum was originally built for Sir Frank Baillie who died in 1921.   His remains were moved to Oakville in the 1960’s and the building sat empty for a few years.  It was purchased by the Just family and now Gloria Irene Just (d. 1977) and Gladys Irene Just (d. 1970) are interned here.  They were daughters of Thomas Fullerton Just, a mining equipment dealer from Quebec.  Someone has left flowers.

front of cemetery tomb for Just family, wood door with engravings on it.

If you are interested in doors, there are lots of blogs that feature door photos on Thursdays…. check out Thursday Doors organized by Norm 2.0 for more information.   This post is a little late but shall we pretend that it’s still Thursday?

Tucked into a space between City Hall and the Court House, is a construction site.  Up until recently it was a parking lot.  Soon it will be a new Court House.  Like all construction sites in Toronto, it is surrounded by hoardings to separate it from the streets and sidewalks.
a yellow digger, not working at the moment, sits in a vacant lot, slightly snow covered, the back of Toronto City Hall is in the background.

On two sides of the lot, the hoardings have been covered with a mural that was commissioned by Infrastructure Ontario.  It is “Picturing the Ward”and it is an exhibit about the area that once existed here, The Ward.  It was an area where many immigrants first settled.  It was roughly in the rectangle formed by College St., Yonge St., Queen St., and University Ave.   In the 1830’s it was home to Blacks escaping slavery, it saw waves of Irish, Eastern European Jews, Italians, and Chinese to name a few.

On the west side (along Centre Avenue), there are old photos, newspaper clippings, and stories of individuals who once lived in the area.   The content was collected and curated by the Toronto Ward Museum, a new ‘museum without walls’  in the city.   PATCH (part of The STEPS Initiative) designed and installed the mural.  The stories are in both English and French.

below: A segment of the mural with a story titled “Hungering for Success”.   It is the story of Edward and Donna Pasquale nee Bernardo.  Both were born in Italy and both were brought to the Ward by their parents.  They met here and married in 1918.  Edward and his brother Pamphilo founded Pasquale Brothers store on Elm Street.   During WW2 Pamphilo spent three years imprisoned in an internment camp in Petawawa along with other Italian, German, and Japanese Canadians that the government considered enemies of the state.  Edward remained in Toronto running the store.

part of larger mural, small tree branch in front, tall office building behind, mural has old photos in blue tones as well as a lot of words about the history of the area

below: The newspaper story from ‘The Toronto Star’ of 3rd October 1907 describes the death of Mrs. Hazleton, a widow with two children, who was hit by a car at Yonge & Bloor.  The car was driven by Mr. F.E. Mutton.  Yes, back then the driver of the car was named in the newspaper.

old photos in blue tones on a mural, along with a picture of an old newspaper clipping describing an automobile accident at Yonge & Bloor in which someone died.

below: The middle section is a collage of cyanotypes (an old photographic process which results in blue pictures) produced by PA System (aka Alexa Hatanaka and Patrick Thompson) .  The images are of artifacts uncovered during the excavation of the area along with some heirlooms contributed by former Ward residents.  A couple of CBC people were braving the cold that day too!

part of mural on a snowy corner, photos in blue tones, a CBC cameraman and reporter are standing on the sidewalk in front of the mural

below: The south side of the hoardings are along Armoury Street.  This section is called, These Stories Are Not Unlike Your Stories. Old photographs of the area have been reproduced in shades of blue.  Orange ‘bubbles’ contain stories.  Most of the photographs are from the City of Toronto Archives although some come from private sources.

part of a larger mural in Toronto, blue photos, with words written in large capital letters, These Stories Are Not Unlike Your Stories

below: On one side, the pictures are printed in reverse and the accompanying words are in French.  The French stories are translations of the English ones.

part of larger mural, reprints in blue tones of historical photos from city archives of ould buildings from the part of the city called The Ward that was demolished in the 1950's to make way for new City Hall

below: The people who lived in The Ward were poor and their housing was sub-standard.  In 1911 a report by the city’s Department of Health described how bad the living conditions were for the people here.  Largely because of that report, demolition of the area started soon after to make space for office towers and government buildings.  I’m not sure how long parts of The Ward survived, but it was in the 1950’s that the original Chinatown along Elizabeth Street was demolished to make way for Nathan Phillips Square.

part of larger mural, reprints in blue tones of historical photos from city archives of ould buildings from the part of the city called The Ward that was demolished in the 1950's to make way for new City Hall

below: Some of the orange bubbles contain quotes from descendants of former residents of the area.  The bottom quote is: “My mom use to say, ‘We were all poor.  No one had anything.  It was normal.  Everyone was in the same position so we didn’t worry about it too much.'”  by Brian Banks, grandson of John & Mary Colestock, former residents.

 

part of larger mural, reprints in blue tones of historical photos from city archives of ould buildings from the part of the city called The Ward that was demolished in the 1950's to make way for new City Hall

below: There is still a lot of work to be done on the site!   The mural will be on view until at least October of next year. If you are interested in the details of the mural, more about the people featured, or the events described, then the best place to start looking is the section of the Toronto Ward Museum website that is devoted to this project.

two red diggers on top of a pile of dirt on a snow covered vacant lot, large multirise buildings in the background

You’ve probably never heard the word asafo before.  You probably have no idea what it means.

Until last week I didn’t know the word existed either.

I went to the Royal Ontario Museum to see the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibit.  There were 100 excellent pictures of insects, animals, marine life, the sort of thing you’d expect.  There was no photography allowed in that exhibit so I have no photos of the images on display.  You’ll have to take my word for it that I was there.

I can appreciate the skill and patience that it takes to capture rabbits in the snow or a school of fish in a certain light underwater but those kind of pictures don’t excite me.   That’s not to diminish the work of the photographers, it was all very high caliber both technically and visually.    What I think I’m trying to say is that I left the exhibit wanting more, something more from my visit to the ROM.

Luckily I didn’t have to look far.  In the next room was Art, Honour, and Ridicule: Asafo Flags from Southern Ghana.

museum exhibit of asafo flags from Ghana, colourful flags of militia groups in yellows, reds and black. Many are hanging in display cases.

Colour, lots of colour.  And a subject that I knew nothing about, asafo flags.  I wasn’t even sure what part of Africa Ghana is in (It’s on the south coast of Western Africa between Togo and the Ivory Coast as it turns out.).

The flags are hand made with an assortment of different motifs.  The British Jack in the upper left corner is a very common feature.  That’s a clue.  Yes, Ghana was a British colony.   Reading the history of Ghana is like reading the colonial history of large parts of Africa.  The Portuguese built a fortress at Elmina in 1482.    Interest in the region was piqued by the presence of gold, hence the name Gold Coast.   By the early 17th century the first African state,  Akwamu, controlled an extensive part of the coast.  They were displaced by the Ashanti who were very involved in the slave trade, especially in trading slaves for weapons.   When European countries outlawed trading in slaves in the early 1800’s,  Ashanti power suffers.   Some tussles ensue, a few battles, some back and forth, and by 1902 what was Ashanti becomes is a British colony.    It remained a colony until 1957.

close up of a flag, hand made, British Jack in the top left corner, a man walks in front of a church in the center, a black bear in the top right.

I’m not going to pretend to know or understand African history.  I’m only trying to give some context to the flags.    First, jump back to my mention of Elmina and the Portuguese. When the Portuguese arrived in this area in the 15th century, it was the Fante (or Fanti) people that they encountered.  Both the Fante and the Ashanti belong to the Akan people.  The Fante prevented them from venturing inland and leased properties for Portuguese trading missions. But when the Portuguese objected to Fante rules and regulations the Fante expelled them.  Soon after, the Dutch arrived.  The Fante served as middlemen in the commerce between the interior and Dutch traders on the coast.

Around 1724 the Dutch either established or made important a number of militia groups of local Fante.  These are the Asafo companies.  Historically, Asafo companies were in charge of the safety and protection of the local community.   At the height of the slave trade they protected individuals and communities.   They exerted power, exercise political influence and maintain codes of conduct within Fante communities. Each company has a flag and that flag has many roles.   They represent proverbs and depict narratives of pride and wisdom.  They accompany oral history and provide a means to preserve customs and traditions.

below:

  1. top flag, by Kweku Kakanu, Saltpond Workshop. “Only a brave man goes under a large tree” because only large animals go under large trees. Made sometime between 1950 and 1957.
  2. bottom flag, artist unknown, Kromantse Workshop. “Only tie a bull to a large tree”. Both the animal and the tree are acknowledged to be strong and mighty.  Made around 1980.  It has a Ghanese flag in the top left corner.

 

two flags displayed on a black background, with three femail mannequins dressed in traditional Ghanese costume.

below:

  1. top flag, by Kweku Kakanu, Saltpond Workshop. A crocodile dominates and controls a pond of fish. Made around 1940.  The prey can not escape.
  2. bottom flag, by Kwesi Budu, Saltpond Workshop. The fish cann’t escape the net of the fishermen just like enemies will not be able to escape when confronted by the company.  Made around 1950.

two flags displayed on a black background, with two male mannequins dressed in military Ghanese costume.

Fante asafo flags from Ghana, two on display in a museum, chickens and roosters,

Fante asafo flags from Ghana, two on display in a museum, griffons

two mannequins in military uniforms as part of a museum exhibit at ROM

 

 

Patricia Harris Gallery of Textiles and Costumes,
ROM, 4th floor,
until March 2017.

 

 

 

On Beatrice Street just south of College there is a small parking lot.  The walls of the buildings on the north and east sides have been painted with a large mural called ‘A Stroll by Garrison Creek’ .

below: On the east side of the parking lot is a painting that represents Emily Bickford and her two daughters, Beatrice and Grace.  The street that the parking lot is on was named for Beatrice Bickford.  The next street parallel to Beatrice is Grace, named for Grace Bickford.   You might recognize the name Bickford if you are familiar with the area – Bickford Park is just south of Christie Pits.  Emily Bickford was responsible for donating some of her family’s land to the city to be used for parkland.

mural on the side of a brick building. Large. Three woman walking through long grass and chasing butterflies. A Stroll along Garrison Creek. Representing Emily Bickford and her daughters Beatrice and Grace.

below: You may have spotted the words Spud Bomb in the picture below.  Also, you might recognize the shapes in the dress that she wears as being similar to shapes seen in a lot of street art in Toronto.  They are the work of Pascal Paquette.  Both Paquette and Spud1 collaborated on this mural along with artist Artchild.

part of a larger mural, a young woman with her back to the viewer, walking through long grass

below: A large chickadee dominates the mural on the north side of the parking lot.

large mural of a chickadee, flowers, and butterflies

This mural was a StreetARToronto (StART) project, with help from VIBE Arts and the Toronto Parking Authority.   It was completed a couple of months ago, September 2016.

 

a monarch butterfly in a mural along with many pink and purple flowers

part of a larger mural, geometric and abstract shapes in many colours.

 

Just over a year ago, I posted some pictures of the art work hanging on a fence along Craven Road.
Some of it is still there, especially some cat pictures like this one:

painting of a beige and light brown cat, lying with its head up and tail wrapped around its body, painted on a wooden fence outside

below: Quite a few little planters have been mounted on the wall.  Because it’s now cold November, most of the plants have died.   These are two exceptions.

4 small wood boxes have been mounted on the side of fence, as planters, a couple still have purple flowers even though it's November and most of the trees have lost their leaves,

below: Some of the things that are now on the fence.   Because there are no houses on the west side of the street, the fence can serve as a gallery wall.

decorated wooden fence on Craven Road, a road with houses only on one side of the street, fence is decorated with a faded Canadian flag, a picture of Queen Elizabeth I, some wood planters, a painting of birch trees in autumn, old shoes, and a sign that says Craven road FEnce, 100 years, 1916 to 2016

below: A close up picture of the “Celebrating 100 years” sign as well as the picture of Queen Elizabeth I, engraved by Crispin van de Passe the Elder, after a drawing by Isaac Oliver.

closer view of the fence with its Celebrating 100 years, Craven Road fence, 1916 to 2016 sign as well as an engraving of Queen Elizabeth I. Planters with dead plants and painted pine cones on sticks, painted red, silver and gold.

below: Andy Warhol’s Marilyn Munroe beside many shoes in twos, knee pads and a walking cast.

a wooden fence with many things hanging on it - an Andy Warhol Marilyn Munroe print, a painting of autumn birch trees, and many old shoes

below: Mirror, mirror on the wall…  Bird pictures to the left and trees and sticks to the right.
Scattered among them are a few glow in the dark stars.

An oval mirror with an ornate wood frame is mounted on an outdoor fence, wood, three small framed pictures hang on both sides of it.

below: Artfully arrange artifacts… mask, hockey stick, dog pictures, toy helicopter….

all kin mounted artfully on a wood fence on Craven Road - hockey stick, football, picture of Charlie Chaplin, ds of things

below:  A woman with three wolves, a young boy and dragonflies listening to your heart.

old black and white photo of a boy, a small statuette of a woman and three wolves, dragonflies on a picture frame with a photo of the word love

below: A composition of found items.  A still life made of remnants of the past.

things on a fence as decoration, guitar, pictures, clock, boxes,

below: And lastly, a couple of pictures of some of the original paintings.

two painting on a fence. One is of a cat and the other is of white flowers

a painting of a line of white sheep on a snowy field, on a fence, outdoors, with houses and backyards beyond the fence, some trees too but they have lost their leaves because it is late autumn

On this day, the 16th of November, in 1885, Louis Riel was hanged in Regina, the capital of the Northwest Territories at the time and the headquarters of the North West Mounted Police.

During that year, Riel led Métis people in the Northwest Resistance (or Northwest Rebellion depending on which side you were on), which was a stand against the Government of Canada because it was encroaching on Metis rights way-of-life.  The Métis were defeated at the siege of Batoche and the Canadian government captured Riel. He was eventually put on trial where he was convicted of treason and executed. As a result, Métis people across Canada were labeled as traitors and for generations many felt the need to hide their Métis culture and heritage.

Riel had previously led the Métis in the Red River Rebellion of 1869-1870.  In 1869 Canada bought Ruperts Land from the Hudsons Bay Company (Ruperts Land covered most of what is now western Canada).   The end result of this rebellion was the formation of the province of Manitoba under the Manitoba Act of 1870.  The Act included some of Riel’s demands such as separate French schools for Métis children and protection of the Roman Catholic religion.   Manitoba was a small piece of what was once Ruperts Land.  A little province surrounded by a large Northwest Territory.   History is often difficult to condense into a couple of paragraphs but there is a lot of information about Riel and the history of western Canada on the internet if you are interested in learning more.

Now, the 16th of November is Louis Riel Day, a day to look to the past and remember what Riel stood for.  It is also a day to look at the present and to recognize the many contributions of the Métis to Canada and to highlight the continuing struggles that Métis continue to face.

below: The Metis flag is raised in front of the parliament building at Queen’s Park. The flag features a large white infinity symbol and the background can be blue or red. The infinity symbol can be seen as a representation of the faith that the Métis culture shall live on forever and/or the joining of two cultures to form one.

raising a blue Metis flag in front of Queens Park

below: After the raising of the flag, the colour party leads the procession through Queen’s Park .

colour party of 6 men carrying flags lead a procession through the park in front of the parliament buildings at Queens Park, autumn and most of the leaves are off the trees.

below: People congregated at the Northwest Rebellion Monument.  This monument honours the 43 men who fell on the battlefields in 1885.  There is no reference to the Métis defenders who also died during the resistance or the Métis desire to negotiate. It reflects the widespread belief that the Métis were traitors, an idea that was prevalent at the time the statue was commissioned.   It was unveiled in 1895; the figure of Peace on the top of the monument was sculpted by Walter Allward.   Since its inception in 1993 the Metis Nation of Ontario has used this monument as the focal point for its Louis Riel Day ceremony.

statue, memorial to those who died in the Northwest Rebellion of 1885, to the soldiers on the winning side, at Queens Park, with people around it, a flag with picture of Louis Riel is planted beside the monument,

below: The base of the Northwest Rebellion memorial is decorated with a picture of Louis Riel along with Metis flags, Metis sashes, a Hudson Bay blanket and a violin.

base of monument with picture of Louis Riel, a violin and a Hudsons Bay blanket on it.

below: Senator Verna Porter-Brunelle opened the ceremony at the base of the memorial to the Northwest Rebellion.  Other government speakers included the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, Dave Levac as well as the Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, David Zimmer.
a woman in a pink jacket stands behind a podium draped with the Metis flag, speaking to a group of people outdoors at QUeens Park on Louis Riel day.

#LouisRielDay