Arts Arts and Culture Exhibit

The inimitable artwork of Marisol

From her uncanny, colorful drawings to her abstract wooden sculptures, Marisol’s retrospective at the MMFA features the full breadth of the artist’s prolific career.

The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts is currently hosting a retrospective exhibition on the life and work of artist Marisol Escobar, commonly known as Marisol. She was an important figure of the Pop Art movement in the 1960s. She was also a close friend and collaborator of Andy Warhol. 

Her nomadic lifestyle might explain why her work is so diversified. Born in Paris to Venezuelan parents, Marisol lived in New York for most of her life and traveled to various corners of the world—each new destination giving her art a new breath. She experimented with all types of mediums; her portfolio includes drawings, paintings, photography, and film, but her sculptures are her most distinguishable creations.  

John D. Schiff (1907-1976), Marisol with Dinner Date, 1963. Marisol Papers, Buffalo AKG Art Museum. © John D. Schiff, courtesy of the Leo Baeck Institute, New York

As a politically engaged feminist, Marisol’s art strongly reflected her convictions. In a similar manner as Frida Kahlo, Marisol often integrated her own face and body parts into her abstract wooden sculptures. Some recurrent themes in Marisol’s artwork are family, maternity, women’s place in society, political conflicts and even gender nonconformity, which was a cutting-edge topic for an artist born in 1930. 

Marisol (1930-2016), Thé pour trois, 1960. Buffalo AKG Art Museum, bequest of Marisol, 2016, 2018:16a-d. © Estate of Marisol / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo Brenda Bieger, Buffalo AKG Art Museum

The retrospective is separated into six galleries, each representing a phase in Marisol’s chronological artistic development. The entrance gallery displays her earlier work starting in the 1950s: mostly colorful drawings and paintings, some bronze sculptures and some small wooden sculptures. This period was during her twenties, when she was making connections with other young New York artists and experimenting with drugs, which is evident in the psychedelic appearance of many of the pieces she created at that time. 

View of the exhibition Marisol: A Retrospective. © Estate of Marisol / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo MMFA, Denis Farley.
Marisol (1930-2016), Face Behind a Mask, 1961. Abrams Family Collection. © Estate of Marisol / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo Bill Jacobson Studio

Moving into the second gallery, the viewers encounter more drawings and paintings that line the periphery of the space which is otherwise filled with popular sculptures Marisol made in the 1960s. Most are made of wood and stand taller than the average human. The collection includes two gigantic babies with wooden bodies and pencil-drawn faces, a boy sitting on a chair wearing Andy Warhol’s shoes, two naked cyclists and much more.

View of the exhibition Marisol: A Retrospective. © Estate of Marisol / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo MMFA, Denis Farley
Marisol (1930-2016), Baby Girl, 1963. Buffalo AKG Art Museum, gift of Seymour H. Knox, Jr., 1964, K1964:8. © Estate of Marisol / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo Brenda Bieger, Buffalo AKG Art Museum

The third gallery hosts some of Marisol’s most ambitious works, such as her piece The Party, which is made up of 15 life-size figures all dressed in gowns, a reflection of New York’s social scene in the mid-twentieth century. The works in this gallery also largely reflect Marisol’s concerns with the multifaceted nature of identity, as can be recognized in the many faces of her self-portraits.

View of the exhibition Marisol: A Retrospective. © Estate of Marisol / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo MMFA, Denis Farley
Marisol (1930-2016), The Party, 1965-1966. Toledo Museum of Art. Museum Purchase Fund, by exchange, 2005.42A-P. © Estate of Marisol / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Marisol (1930-2016), Self-Portrait, 1961-1962. Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, gift of Joseph and Jory Shapiro, 1992.66. © Estate of Marisol / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo © MCA Chicago, Nathan Keay

The fourth gallery displays Marisol’s work in the 1970s, when her popularity peaked. She started to take intensive diving lessons which inspired her to create pieces related to the underwater world and the ocean environment such as films, paintings of seascapes and a sculpture of a real-size fish-man. 

The Louis Falco Dance Company’s performance of Caviar, 1970. Décor and costumes by Marisol. Marisol Papers, Buffalo AKG Art Museum
View of the exhibition Marisol: A Retrospective. © Estate of Marisol / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo MMFA, Denis Farley

Moving on to the fifth gallery, the space is filled with creations Marisol made using different parts of her body: there is a painting she created by pressing herself onto the paper while soaked in ink, as well as some clay hands, arms, feet and faces. There is a shift here between her usual approach of abstracting the female body through wooden sculpture to abstracting it through impressions.

View of the exhibition Marisol: A Retrospective. © Estate of Marisol / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo MMFA, Denis Farley
Marisol (1930-2016), Diptych, 1971. Buffalo AKG Art Museum, gift of Mrs. George A. Forman, by exchange, 2022, 2022:4a-b. © Estate of Marisol / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo Brenda Bieger, Buffalo AKG Art Museum

Naturally, the final gallery features the work Marisol made toward the end of her life. In the 1980s and 90s, she continued to make political pieces. She created public monuments, which are mostly in Venezuela. 

Marisol (1930-2016), American Merchant Mariners’ Memorial, 1991. The Battery, Manhattan, New York. Colour photograph, from the Marisol Papers, Buffalo AKG Art Museum. © Estate of Marisol / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

She also met a shaman around that time and was deeply affected by this encounter, which inspired some paintings and sculptures that have a distinctly mystical quality to them. In the 2010s, she went back to colorful drawings, bringing her artistic journey full circle. She died in 2016, at age 86.

View of the exhibition Marisol: A Retrospective. © Estate of Marisol / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo MMFA, Denis Farley

Marisol’s retrospective will be on view at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts through Jan. 21, 2024.

Arts and Culture Exhibit

The Portal to Unity between Nature and Humanity

Collaboration between museums and Indigenous communities offers a step toward a new way of displaying sacred objects.

Thought and Splendour of Indigenous Colombia: Portable Universe is a collaborative exhibition organized by five museums in the United States, Canada, and Colombia in dialogue with the Arhuaco community of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta region of Northern Colombia. The active inclusion of the Arhuaco community in this exhibition’s organization intentionally puts forth an indigenous perspective of the world, allowing viewers to witness each object through the lens of the culture from which they came. This decision provides a richer understanding of the intentions behind each piece and creates a cross-cultural dialogue through which knowledge can be equally exchanged. 

The exhibition opens up with a didactic wall text that provides an overview of how the perspective of Indigenous people enriches present-day society through a timeless sensibility. There is no beginning or end for the objects collected here,  for their inherent spirit traverses time and space. Upon entering the gallery, the viewers encounter the “Votive figure (Tunjo)”, which is a sculpture shaped like a man seated in the basket position. Through the gesture of the figure’s connected hands, this piece provides a glimpse into one of the major themes of the exhibition—the circularity and timelessness of indigenous thought. A selection of contemporary artwork at the end of the exhibition rounds out the show by reinforcing the timeless notion of nature as a respected and valued part of humanity.

The curators refused to organize the display according to a linear timeline. This choice encourages the visitors to connect with the pieces’ functional role and the intentions of the creator rather than inserting them into a canonical order. Consequently, the viewer focuses on the lessons embedded in each piece regarding the relationship humans share with nature and their symbiotic roles.

View of the exhibition Portable Universe: Thought and Splendour of Indigenous Colombia at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. Photo MMFA, Jean-François Brière

Considering nature as our extended family and respecting it is another recurring theme of the exhibition. The importance of the natural world in Indigenous communities shows through their sacred practices. The exhibition opens a discussion that calls into question the Western view of nature as a resource to use and exploit and encourages viewers to consider the Indigenous view of nature as our shared home that must be respected and protected. 

Each room in the exhibition is curated according to a different theme in order to emphasize an important aspect of the Arhuaco culture. Video projectors, images and soundscapes throughout the exhibition remind visitors of the natural sights and sounds that are significant and sacred in the practices of the Indigenous communities of Colombia. These practices focus on the principles of creation and imitation of natural elements. Video projections serve as extended narratives and insert a sensorial and human element into the gallery space. 

The exhibition is located in the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and will be open to the public until October 1st, 2023. 

Arts Exhibit

Exhibition review: Montreal printmaking artist’s life path

The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts displays 30 remarkable artworks from Albert Dumouchel, representing the evolution of his art style throughout his career

“Printing remains a simple, Austere Language– As I have often said, it’s like chamber music” – Albert Dumouchel.

Albert Dumouchel (1916-71) was a Montreal printmaking artist. He met London artist James Lowe in 1940, which inspired the start of his printmaking career.

An exhibition in honour of the late artist is located on the second floor of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, surrounded by white walls. The room is lit in a warm tone, dimmer than the lobby but matches the tone of the artist’s featured works. This exhibition displays 30 of his prints from the 1940s to the 1960s. His printmaking has been influenced by the development of art in many other countries.

In 1942, Dumouchel’s artwork “Pietà” marked the beginning of his journey. Unlike the traditional drypoint technique, in which an image is drawn on the plate with a sharp needle-like tool. Dumouchel decided to carve his images into a sheet of transparent plastic. “Pietà” demonstrated a picture of the Virgin Mary mourning the death of her son. 

Although the overall lines of this piece are rough, the painted appearance on Mary’s face expresses strong emotions. The sharp white shapes in the background form a strong contrast with the surrounding dark round shapes, enhancing the viewer’s visual senses. His spiritual expression laid the groundwork for the later transformation of his artistic style.

In the late 1940s, Dumouchel turned towards surrealism, expressing external reality through his own psychological and poetic imagination. In “The Banners in the Night,” 1958, he used etching to show the technical improvement. Each line in the work flows naturally, twisting together to create the changeable forms of the wind.

In 1965, with the ascent of the Pop Art movement in North America, Dumouchel returned to figurative form in 1965. One remarkable technique he used was lithography. This technique was used in his piece “La mort de la cycliste” (The Death of the Cyclist), presenting his art in a completely new way.

Dumouchel returned to carving, making woodcuts late in his career, like his piece called “L’Horrible chat des neiges” (The Horrible Snow Cat).The penetrating gaze of the cat is what makes the work memorable. Referring to his earlier works, he has a talent of using minimal backgrounds to enhance the expression of the main subject’s manner.

Throughout this artist’s experience in printmaking, much of his inspiration has come from other cultures. “When I think of this artist, or any other artist, I would just think of his expression of art,” says one of the visitors. “Anything could be the inspiration, like what you learned and what you experienced.”


Exhibition review: Outside the Palace of Me

Shary Boyle’s exploration of the connection between society and the individual

This is a special show — the Toronto-based artist Shary Boyle has designed her exhibition on a stage setup at the Montreal Museum of Fine arts.

The moment visitors walk into the exhibition, they are standing in the middle of a huge stage. This implies that each individual not only observes society, but also participates in it. Shary Boyle’s artwork exposes a variety of phenomena in this society that we choose to ignore, which poses complex and sometimes paradoxical questions to visitors about our understanding of human nature.

The first sculpture visitors see is “The Potter”. It depicts an image of an artist’s process of making porcelain. However, the interesting thing is that this artist does not have a head, and there are six different porcelain pieces stacked up in front of them. Upon closer inspection, each piece has a different style that represents a different country. From the bottom up, they are China, Ghana, France, Greece, Peru, and Egypt.

Boyle is also very strict in the selection of materials: terracotta, porcelain, underglaze, china paint, luster, and brass rods were all used in her installation.

The headless artist of “The Potter” is captured making a gesture of lifting the porcelain as if they are trying to put these civilizations on their own head. This is a reflection of us being in a culturally diverse society. It also represents the ideology of each culture within society.

“Oasis,” another piece on display, is a woman sculpture that has both male and female sexual attributes. Although her face is covered by her hair, she is sitting sideways and presenting her sexuality in a confident pose. 

The idea of gender nonconformity created by this sculpture explores the people who break the gender norms that are expected for them. Her sexual organs look slicker than other parts of her body, because Shary Boyle uses luster as a representation of the gender stereotype, which is a beautiful and fragile material. This work poses the question to the viewer — why should the gender stereotypes in our minds be so solid?

Moving to the right side of the stage, visitors see a huge white statue sitting on the right side of the room, named “White Elephant”. Its whole body is painted and dressed in white. It is staring forward with no emotional expression on its face.

In a flash, its head suddenly turns around. Many viewers were shocked by this art installation, while others did not even notice its movement. According to Boyle, the title is inspired by the proverb “elephant in the room,” which refers to the phenomenon of people ignoring a very obvious fact. 

Shary Boyle sarcastically illustrates the whiteness of society, in which many politicians are aware of history of genocide, and the white privilege but choose to ignore it. The white elephant stands out in this dimly-lit exhibition room. According to my personal understanding, white has the ability to embrace any colour, just as this society can embrace any distinct being.

Arts Culture

Seeing Loud: A look at the love story between Jean-Michel Basquiat and music

Montreal Museum of Fine Arts collaborates with the Musée de la musique – Philharmonie de Paris to create the first large-scale multidisciplinary exhibition on the role of music in Basquiat’s art

Upon entering the exhibit, visitors are embraced by the first room’s black painted walls as new-wave music plays. The smell of paint lingers in the air as people gather to admire the artwork while music from punk band The Offs plays loudly in the background. 

This is how curators decided to open Seeing Loud: Basquiat and Music, an exhibition centered around the major role that music — be it opera, jazz or hip-hop — played in Basquiat’s life and work. 

Spectators are propelled into the musical universe of Basquiat’s era and the New York underground scene of the 1970s and 1980s that inspired him throughout his artistic career. 

The walls are covered with colourful posters and flyers of the bands that the artist listened to and formerly collaborated with. Between his emblematic crowns and anatomical drawings, musical references start to emerge in visitors’ minds.

Musicologist and guest curator from the Philharmonie de Paris Vincent Bessières explained that the first part of the exhibit was made to give a contextual and biographical background on the importance of music in Basquiat’s life, while the second part centers on how music oriented his pictorial universe. 

From his band Gray to his appearances as a DJ, nothing is forgotten in the extensive discography that has found its way into the artist’s work. 

The scenography uses a multidisciplinary approach that reflects Basquiat’s own methods. 

Woman looking at painting – VALENTINE ALIBERT

Visitors are projected into an atmosphere by the music playing in each room while videos and archives play everywhere. 

Visitors Ismaila Diallo and Anastasi Eosforos said they particularly appreciated the exhibition’s scenography and the way the different parts were orchestrated.

“Seeing urban art in a museum was fun,” said Diallo. “You would think there’s kind of this clash between the two, but it was very well executed.”

Jazz specialist Bessières explained that, even though Basquiat was a painter of his time and was involved in a dynamic and creative environment, he brought past music to the canvas.

“Looking at Basquiat through the prism of music allows at the same time to talk about the social journey of his life but also an interpretive key that allows us to understand things about his work,” said Bessières. “Jazz is really the music that he most celebrated, quoted, and represented in his works.”

For Bassières, these visual references to African-American culture and music are part of Basquiat’s wider connection to his identity as a Black man. 

The exhibition shows how music in Basquiat’s mind connected him to the world as an artist but, more importantly, as a Black artist living in America.

Seeing Loud runs until Feb. 19, 2023. Tickets are $16 for 21 to 30 year olds while general entry is $24. For more information, visit the MMFA’s website.


Ecologies pays homage to planet Earth

The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts’ latest exhibition captures the complexities of global warming

I have rarely left a museum feeling emotional and so deeply invested in the curator’s cause. Walking out onto Sherbrooke Street after leaving Ecologies: A Song for Our Planet, I found myself breathtaken and with a heavy heart; both hopeful and troubled for the future that awaits us.

Curated by Iris Amizlev, curator of intercultural arts, Ecologies features over 90 works from the museum’s collection, all of which interpret the current environmental crisis in a different way. Featured artists include Shuvinai Ashoona, Olafur Eliasson, and Lorraine Gilbert.

Upon walking into the space, viewers can observe Giuseppe Penone’s Path (1983), an almost whimsical sculpture that appears to be at once a human and a flowering tree. Penone’s bronze cast figure serves as a demonstration and connection between humans and nature — a theme which Amizlev has made apparent at various instances throughout the exhibition.

Another example of the relationship between humans and the environment can be observed in Lorraine Gilbert’s Boreal Forest Floor, La Macaza, Quebec (2010). The print, which is only half of a diptych from the series “Once Upon a Forest,” features manipulated photographs of plants that are native to Quebec.

Gilbert manipulated the photographs, creating what is essentially a collage, in an attempt to give viewers a “man-made” view of an already beautiful landscape. By resizing, reorganizing, and essentially recreating the scenery, the work demonstrates society’s inclination towards controlling a natural process.

Further in the space, viewers can admire Osuitok Ipeelee’s Untitled (Walruses) (1977) and Peter Qumaluk Itukalla’s Untitled (Bear and Cub) (2003). Though the works are not directly about the climate crisis, the stone sculptures capture the beauty of the threatened Canadian wilderness.

By referencing Indigenous artists and the impacts of colonization, Amizlev makes the important connection between a longstanding history of environmental injustice and the mistreatment of Indigenous peoples, two issues which fall hand-in-hand.

Olafur Eliasson’s Untitled no. 44 (1997), from his series “Iceland,” is a print featuring a stunning depiction of an Icelandic landscape. The contrast between the grassy plain and snowy field in the distance allows viewers to appreciate the grandiosity and serenity of the vast Nordic region.

Eliasson’s works frequently incorporate science, and specifically more “elemental” materials such as water and air. The Danish-Icelandic artist primarily creates installations, and explores themes such as weather, the environment, and space.

In contrast to Eliasson’s tranquil photograph, Adrian Stimson’s Beyond Redemption (2010) is forthright and provocative. Consisting of a taxidermied bison surrounded by ten bison skins draped across black crosses, Stimson’s installation pays homage to the history and importance of the bison in Indigenous communities.

Stimson, a member of the Siksika nation, sacrificed a bison as a means of honouring the near-eradication of the species, as well as the Indigenous tribes who rely on them for sustenance. He offers a glance at the importance of the bison in Indigenous spirituality, as well as the ramifications of human actions on a group of animals that once dominated the wilderness.

Presented alongside Ecologies, viewers can view Paul Walde’s mesmerizing video installation, Requiem for a Glacier (2013). Performed by over 50 artists on the Farnham Glacier in British Columbia, Walde’s piece serves as an homage to the land.

In addition to being threatened by global warming, the government of British Columbia had announced developing a ski resort on the unceded Indigenous land of the Ktunaxa Nation, causing a series of land disputes which lasted over a decade. Walde’s performance features a choir singing the Latin translation of the press release published by the government authorities.

At once aesthetically gratifying and informational, Ecologies provides the public with a compelling narrative and ode to planet Earth. Amizlev’s selection of works so profoundly captures the intricacies and complexity of the climate crisis, offering viewers an experience that is both alarming and stunning.

Ecologies: A Song for Our Planet is on display at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, at 1380 Sherbrooke St. W., until Feb. 27, 2022. The museum is open from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Tuesday to Sunday. Reservations must be made in advance. To book a ticket, visit


Photos courtesy of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.


Reframing history with Scattered Remains

Nadia Myre contributes her work to Woman. Artist. Indigenous. at the MMFA

Influential Indigenous artist Nadia Myre’s latest exhibition at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA) is part of Woman. Artist. Indigenous., “a season at the museum devoted to female Indigenous artists,” according to the museum’s website.

Titled Tout Ce Qui Reste – Scattered Remains, the exhibition is a retrospective of the artist’s work, combining five of Myre’s series created since the turn of the millennium: Indian Act, Grandmother’s Circle, Oraison/Orison, Code Switching and Meditation (Respite). This selection of artworks, along with the rest of Myre’s body of work, focuses on the retelling of Indigenous history and uses traditional Indigenous art practices and found objects to challenge Western colonial narratives.

After reading the curatorial statement outside of the exhibition, viewers walk through the doorway and enter a large, dark, rectangular room. In this space, Myre’s series are nicely moulded together, with two- and three-dimensional artworks covering both the walls and floor of the room. The black walls and low lighting allow for backlighting and the white of the artworks to have an illuminating presence in the dark space.

Myre’s piece, titled Indian Act, displays the entire document covered in red and white beading. Photo by Mackenzie Lad.

The longer, perpendicular walls of the room are filled with large white-on-black photographic and textile pieces from Oraison/Orison (2014) and Code Switching (2017). The shorter wall to the left of the entrance features a looping video artwork as well as multiple images from Meditation (Respite) (2017). Across from this are more images from this series, works from the Indian Act (2000-2002) series and hanging sculptural pieces from Code Switching. The large installation works from Oraison/Orison and Grandmother’s Circle (2002) are spread out on the floor.

The curatorial presentation of the dark room and backlit artworks is both visually striking and thematically relevant, symbolizing what Myre intends to do in her work—repurpose Indigenous cultural objects to create light in a dark history.

The Indian Act artworks are perhaps the most explicit reference to Indigenous politics in the exhibition. Created with the help of many fellow Indigenous artists, this series of framed textile works takes on the challenge of covering up all 56 pages of the Indian Act using red and white glass beading. Myre’s piece draws attention to the legal rights of First Nations people in Canada, which are so often written over and ignored.

A tobacco-filled basket is part of the artist’s series titled Oraison/Orison. Photo by Mackenzie Lad.

Grandmother’s Circle is a visual depiction of the artist’s attempt to trace her heritage. She unfortunately discovered very little about her Algonquin side, due to her mother being placed in an orphanage. In this work, large wooden poles are tied and placed together to create structures in the shape of wishbones. The MMFA’s website describes them as “a barrier that symbolizes the access to ancestral wisdom that was denied to Indigenous peoples,” similar to the residential school system.

The Oraison/Orison series, made up of both print and installation works, explores the permanence of memory and the impact life events can have on our bodies. A large kinetic installation piece, made of a red fishing net, moves up and down, mimicking the action of breathing. An oversized woven basket filled with tobacco—often used in First Nations ceremonies—wafts a subtle smell throughout the gallery space. A series of prints depict the white thread stitching on the back of the Indian Act artworks, and are reminiscent of scars on one’s skin.

Another part of the Oraison/Orison series, prints of white thread hint to scars on one’s skin. Photo by Mackenzie Lad.

Circular prints from Myre’s Meditation (Respite) series depict several close-up photographs of traditional meditative beadwork. These beaded designs are inspired by Indigenous spirituality and images of the cosmos, and explore the neverending properties of the universe.

Myre’s latest series, Code Switching, was produced during an artist residency sponsored by the MMFA. The artworks in this series are made of the collected fragments of European settlers’ pipes, which were historically used along with tobacco as currency with Indigenous populations. According to the museum’s website, Myre reclaims these fragments and repurposes them, using traditional beading techniques as a way of “sparking reflection and building bridges between cultures.”

Tout Ce Qui Reste – Scattered Remains will be on display at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts until May 27. It is located in the museum’s Discovery Exhibitions section, which is free to visit for people under the age of 31. For those over 31, entry is $15 or free on the last Sunday of every month.

Feature photo by Mackenzie Lad.


Chagall: Where colour and music meet

Exhibition at the MMFA melds the visual with the auditory

Music had a deep influence on Marc Chagall. The Russian-French artist was an early modernist in the late 19th to early 20th century. He was versatile both in style and medium, creating paintings, sculptures and even stained glass.

The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA) takes an overarching look at Chagall’s illustrious career in Chagall: Colour and Music. Featuring 340 works of art, the MMFA has combined interactive elements with classic exhibition spaces to immerse visitors in Chagall’s art.

According to the museum, the exhibition is the largest ever devoted to Chagall in Canada. And considering how prolific the artist was, it requires a lot of time to go through. The exhibition space is massive. In order to truly understand the different influences in the artist’s life, it’s worth taking the time to read the museum descriptions to really appreciate the artwork on display.

There is quite a variety of artwork to see. In his lifetime, Chagall produced sculptures, paintings, drawings, and costumes for ballets and operas. He even dabbled in stained glass and tapestry making. It seems as if no medium was out of his reach.

No matter which piece you look at, regardless of when in Chagall’s career it was produced, the work is always unmistakably Chagall. The essence of the artist’s style—be it in the integration of geographic shapes, the vivid colours or the appearance of movement—is always present to some degree. Even going from a flat canvas to a three-dimensional sculpture, his works still bear his signature curves and geometric patterns. Through his versatility there is also familiarity, and it is interesting to chart the changes Chagall went through over the span of his career.

As you go through the exhibition, you learn that Chagall had several muses he drew upon for inspiration. Of his muses, music and colour were consistent. Music had a powerful effect on Chagall, and moved him deeply. Another one of his other influences was religion. His Yiddish and Jewish roots were very important to him, and had a profound impact on his creations, evident in his depictions of traditional Yiddish culture.

Music was such an integral part of Chagall’s artwork that the MMFA took it into account when putting together the exhibition. There is music playing in most of the rooms, the kind Chagall might have been listening to while he painted. Most of the tracks are traditional Yiddish and Jewish scores, or classical music. The audio adds depth to the pieces. Instead of simply viewing the end results, we are privy to a small part of the artistic process.

In his works, Chagall, like Picasso, explored canvas space, texture and colour. Though Chagall’s style was whimsical and often childlike, his work also communicated deep messages of longing, or fear during the World War II when he sensed Jews were beginning to be hunted and persecuted.

Chagall: Colour and Music is on display at the MMFA until June 11. Tickets are $15 for visitors under the age of 30, and $23 for visitors aged 31 and over. The museum is open Tuesday to Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.


Grad intersects art and design at the MMFA

Concordia alumnus tests assumptions about art in Impressions residency

The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA) boasts a varied collection, with pieces originating from around the world. Comprised of paintings, reliefs, sculptures and everything in between, the MMFA features a vast treasure trove of artistically and culturally-significant artefacts.

Like most museums, the MMFA’s collection makes assumptions about what art is and isn’t based on Western perspectives and definitions of “good” art. These assumptions are exactly what Ari Bayuaji—the MMFA’s new Impressions artist in residence—wants to challenge.

“We live in a very interesting and dynamic time at the moment,” said Bayuaji. “Art has been a great archive that reflects different times and changes in the history of human beings. [Challenging assumptions in art] is very important because our world is always changing.”

Bayuaji was a product and interior designer in Bali, Indonesia, before he came to Montreal to pursue a bachelor’s degree in fine arts at Concordia in 2005. He said he is interested in the relationship between art and design, and uses ready-made objects—manufactured items modified by the artist—to question assumptions about art.

His works, featuring painted pieces of driftwood, painted stone statues and countless painted wooden pieces dangling from hidden wire, aim to blur the line between noble, fine arts and everyday objects. He said he wants to accomplish the same thing at the MMFA.

While a student at Concordia, Bayuaji frequently made use of ready-made objects for his assignments.

“I found that blank paper or plain white canvas was too boring to work on. When I moved from Indonesia to Canada in 2005, I brought with me many of old objects I collected when I was younger,” Bayuaji said. “For my studio classes, I could paint or draw over solid teak wood panels, old photographic works I did years before, and make sculptures by cutting and pasting them together. As an art student, it was a good way for me to deal with my expenses and also to be different compared to other fellow students.”

The MMFA’s Impressions residency, supported by the Conseil des arts de Montréal, is an opportunity to showcase emerging artists from a cultural community, visible minority or aboriginal community. The goal of this residency is for an artist to produce a work inspired by the MMFA’s vast collection of 42,000 items—of which only 4,500 are on display. Bayuaji will be given six weeks to research and study the museum’s collection—the largest in Canada—and produce an original perspective piece to be displayed in an exhibition in the mezzanine of the Maison du Conseil des arts de Montréal.

“I would like to create some artworks using old objects that either might never have been found by Western museum curators, or might not be of significant importance or uniqueness to warrant a place at the museum,” said Bayuaji, who said he believes that design and art work together, rather than apart.

“I think that design should be very basic knowledge in the study of art history. When we think about the ancient Greeks and Romans, artefacts from that period were something that shaped their culture and traditions,” said Bayuaji. “The ancient Greek art at that time was mostly created or designed for daily life or religious purposes. I don’t think we can separate art from design.”

Through his work, Bayuaji hopes to challenge the Western lens through which we often look at art and by which collections such as that of the MMFA are typically organized.


Montreal in Love: Embracing Diversity takes a look at love

New exhibition part of 375th anniversary celebrations highlights love in all forms

Uplifting is the word that comes to mind when walking into the Montreal in Love: Embracing Diversity exhibition at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA). The walls are covered with pictures of happy couples and families smiling, laughing and spending time together.

Aside from the feelings of happiness and love that come through the portraits, the other common element between all of these different couples and families is that they are all interracial.

During her inauguration speech, Marie-Christine Ladouceur, the project manager for Montreal In Love, said she wanted to represent the city’s diversity in the most authentic way—and what better way than with the people who embody this diversity. “Talking about diversity through love is a language that everyone can understand,” said Ladouceur.

The exhibition is part of a series of year-long festivities currently taking place to celebrate Montreal’s 375th anniversary. The goal of the exhibition is to showcase the unique social diversity present in Montreal.

The exhibition features 30 couples and families who were photographed in locations they thought represented them well, such as at home or outside. Some video installations also offer a more in-depth look at their relationships. Very short written excerpts from interviews accompany the photos to give a snapshot into life for these interracial and interreligious couples, exploring the challenges they face and how they overcome these challenges.

New series of photographic works highlight the diversity of love in the city.

For one couple, Youssef Shoufan and Manu Alix, being part of this project gave them a chance to look at their relationship through a different lens. When initially approached for the project, Shoufan did not see the relevance of showcasing interracial love, as it was part of everyday life for him. Only after being involved in the project and encountering other interracial couples did he come to understand the importance of talking about this unique type of relationship.

For Alix, who was born in South Korea and adopted by a Québécois family, the interview portion of the project allowed her to rethink what being in an intercultural relationship means to her, as well as rethink her ties to her own culture. “It allowed me to crystallize my identity in the sense that, I grew up outside of Montreal and I thought I was white when I was younger… Arriving to Montreal meant for me to reconcile myself with another part of my identity… one that is being part of a visible minority, of diversity,” says Alix.

Montreal in Love also allowed Montreal photographers Jacques Nadeau and Mikaël Theimer to get up close and personal with the featured couples and families. The two photographers witnessed intimate moments shared between people, and, according to Theimer, that’s what he loves about photography. “It’s not photography that I love, it’s the places where my camera allows me to enter that I love—in the intimacy of a couple, in private events, behind the curtains at a show, in the hospital,” said Theimer.

While the exhibition shines a light on the everyday life of many Montrealers, Alix said, “I dream of the day where we won’t need projects like these to underline the importance or the beauty of diversity.”

Montreal in Love runs at the MMFA until Feb. 19.


What to do in Montreal this winter

A quick look at what’s happening in the city this semester

Winter might have its cold, cold claws firmly clamped down on the city, but that doesn’t mean Montreal’s vibrant arts and culture scene is any less interesting. With winter festivals and activities taking place both inside and outdoors, there’s something to satisfy everyone’s tastes and preferences. Here’s a quick look at some of the things you can look forward to this semester.

Montreal en lumière

Back for its 18th year, the Montréal en lumière festival will once again offer a unique program, consisting of outdoor activities, performing arts and gastronomic discoveries. The festival runs from Feb. 18 to March 11, and is one of the largest winter festivals in the world. You won’t want to miss the festival’s biggest event: Nuit blanche on March 4. With more than 200 activities spread out over 100 sites, this Montreal staple will be sure to warm up even the coldest of nights with its eclectic mix of musical and artistic performances. Mother Mother, Regina Spektor and Matt Holubowski are some of the artists set to perform. Not to mention, the metro is open all night, so you can enjoy all manner of activities until the break of dawn.

The FOFA Gallery

As Concordia students, we are lucky to have our very own in-house exhibition space. The Faculty of Fine Arts Gallery, located in the EV building, routinely displays pieces from Concordia students and faculty. Admission is free. The gallery has an interesting line-up of exhibitions for the winter semester, starting with Making Spaces, the annual undergraduate student exhibition running from Jan. 16 to Feb. 17. The exhibition, featuring works by Faculty of Fine Arts students, will include performances from Concordia’s department of contemporary dance.

Leonard & Bina Ellen Art Gallery

Sovereign Acts II, an examination of indigenous cultural dances, will be presented at the gallery from Jan. 21 to April 1. This work delves into the way indigenous dances and practices were performed for international and colonial audiences. It looks at how these performers were faced with the conundrum of maintaining their traditional cultural practices, while also using them as performances intended to please the colonial gaze.

Montreal Museum of Fine Arts

If the winter blues have got you down, then the next exhibition opening at the MMFA will cheer you up. Chagall: Colour and Music will be on display from Jan. 28 to June 11. Four hundred of Marc Chagall’s paintings, stained glass works, illustrations, photographs and maquettes will be on display. The exhibition will not only show the Russian-French artist’s legacy, but will also examine the role music played in Chagall’s art, acting as his inspiration and muse for his modernist works.


Out of the classroom into the museum

Family Works, a multi-faceted project led by a Concordia professor culminates in student work exhibited at the MMFA


It isn’t often that a class project is exhibited at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts—but until Dec. 5, 11 artworks by Concordia undergraduate students, ranging from video to textile installations, are on display in the promenade at the MMFA.

These works represent the culmination of a year’s worth of work which brought together different programs within the Faculty of Fine Arts in a partnership between the MMFA and Concordia University. Art history and studio arts students had the opportunity to work on a project that transcended the typical classroom experience.

Family Works: A Multiplicity of Meanings and Contexts is a multi-faceted, ambitious project led by Concordia art history professor Loren Lerner. Along with the exhibition at the MMFA, Lerner created a website that groups the collective work done by the undergraduate students in her seminar course, Here’s Looking at You Kid: Picturing Children, Envisioning Childhood.

“It was tough for them, and they were really the very best students. I was really lucky,” said Lerner. “They worked so very hard and there was no grumbling, at least no grumbling with me. But they really understood the challenge. They met the challenge head on.”

The art history students in Lerner’s seminar had the task of analyzing 82 works pertaining to the representation of family from the MMFA’s permanent collection. These analyses are hosted on the Family Works website for all to see, divided into four different sections according to the assignments for the class, which included descriptions of individual works and comparative analyses addressing broad themes of family.

What Mélanie Deveault, educational projects developer at the MMFA, found interesting about the theme of family was its universality. The strength of the website, and of the student works, lies in the diversity and new perspectives reflected on a theme as old as time. According to Deveault, this reflection showcased different ways we can approach the theme of family, and allows people to enjoy the museum’s permanent collection in a new way while discovering a new generation of artists and art historians.

The fourth section of the website hosts the works by 20 studio artists from Raymonde April, Laura Endacott and Tema Stauffer’s undergraduate courses. The studio art students were tasked with producing an artistic work inspired by a piece from the museum’s permanent collection. This work was then analyzed by the art history students.

According to Deveault, the website represents research, quality content and a different point of view from the MMFA’s neighbouring community of Concordia.

“It was over 80 works that were analyzed, discussed and interpreted by university students, so it’s really a perspective from one of our communities that brought richness to the collection,” said Deveault.

For Lerner, creating the website with her students was meant to give them an idea of what they could hope to do after graduation.

“I felt that it’s really so important to understand, because we have to be a little pragmatic—you want to get a job when you graduate, so what kind of work is out there?” said Lerner. Since the target audience for this website is the general public, this meant the tone had to be different from the academic art history essays her students were used to producing.

“I really wanted to create something that the students were working on that gave them skills that they could take into their working life after they’ve graduated,” said Lerner. “So I’m really a believer in web publishing.”

At first, there was no intention to display the student works at the museum. Space at the museum is booked years ahead of time, and there was simply no room to fit in 20 additional artworks done by the students. That changed along the way.

Deveault was impressed with the quality of work produced by this next generation of artists and art historians. So much so that she found an unused space that would be able to host the student work.

“When I received the texts from the works in the collections, and then the interpretations from the studio students… well, we’re always curious to see what’s there, but it was really a joy to see the diversity in interpretations,” said Deveault.

Of the 20 works submitted by the studio students, 11 were selected to be installed in the museum’s promenade, which leads to the education centre. Of those 11, two are videos, ten are displayed as virtual exhibits, and one is a physical work by Geneviève Grenier, displayed at the entrance to the promenade.The virtual works are presented as images on screens along the promenade of the museum. Designed as slide-shows, each of the three screens rotates between the works and includes the text analyses written by the art history students.

Geneviève Grenier, Fémelot, 2015, dyed textiles, stockings, glass, wood, cables, oil and milk. Photo by Guy L’Heureux.

“I always believed in the genius of my students. I’ve seen so many amazing things happen at these levels, so I thought yeah, let’s get on board,” said Endacott, who was teaching a 200-level fibres course, where students learned printing and dyeing techniques and how to work with different textiles. “It doesn’t matter if it’s small—it’s the validation of being within the museum’s walls that’s really exciting for a younger student, even for an experienced artist.”

Endacott hopes that the effort put in by the students comes through in the exhibit at the museum. “You don’t hear a lot of people say ‘Well anyone could be an engineer.’ There’s always this assumption that in the arts, it’s very easy,” she said.

In addition to the website and the exhibited student works, a series of videos depicting the process of assembling the website are available on YouTube.


Amanda Grzelak was at work when she found out her installation, Family Roots, would be displayed on a virtual screen in the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA).

“I was just completely ecstatic—I was running around, literally jumping for joy. I was in shock, I was telling everyone who was around me. I called my parents right away,” said Grzelak, a studio arts student who was in Endacott’s class. “It really felt like it was an amazing opportunity, especially for an undergraduate student, and it felt like it gave me hope for doing art. Like all the hard work was finally starting to pay off.”

Amanda Grzelak, Family Roots, 2015, direct application of dye and block printed pigment on cotton, Styrofoam inserts, hand and machine sewn. Photo by Guy L’Heureux.

For the students involved in the project, Family Works was more than just an assignment. It was a portfolio-builder and an opportunity.

For Kimberly Glassman, an art history student, part of the challenge was easing into a new mindset.

“We were used to writing essays to be graded in class, but for this it was different because we were peer editing each other’s work,” said Glassman about the Family Works website. “We were more apprehensive that it was going to be read by more people than just the teacher and our peers.”

The website hosts work by 16 art history students and 20 studio arts students. Each written assignment submitted for the class was peer-reviewed, edited, rewritten, re-edited and rewritten again before being posted.

“Above all, I was intrigued by the idea of virtual museums. […] They’re everywhere now and they’re the next step for museum development, I think,” said Glassman. “I was just so happy to hear that the unseen collections of the Museum of Fine Arts were going to be put online virtually in a place people could visit it all the time.”

When Dina Georgaros found out her work would be featured on a website in collaboration with the MMFA, she was intimidated at first—but Lerner pushed everyone to do their best and embrace the challenge.

“It gave us a voice, in a sense,” said Georgaros. “The thing with this project was that it meant something because we were going to be working in collaboration with the museum, and we worked really hard on all the papers we wrote.”

Sarah Amarica, who finished her bachelor’s in art history and has begun her masters’ at Concordia, is happy knowing that the assignments everyone worked on during the year came together to form the website.

“One of our goals was to make art accessible. So we constructed our projects knowing that it might be read by an audience that might not have an art history background,” said Amarica. “It would be great if someone read one of these papers and learned a little bit more about an artwork that they wouldn’t have known before.”

For Grzelak, her installation presented another, additional challenge: size. Her work, consisting of several “roots” intertwined and weaved together, is nine by three yards.

“Working with such a large-scale object was really time consuming and was really a big risk, because, if it didn’t end up looking like how I imagined or didn’t end up working as well as I thought, all of that time would have amounted to nothing,” said Grzelak. “And it’s hard to restart.”

Both the studio art and art history students had the support and confidence of their teachers, who pushed them to write better, produce better and surpass even their own expectations.

“Dr. Lerner puts a lot of faith in undergraduate students. She values our thoughts and our writing,” said Glassman.

To see the work produced by the students, visit the MMFA’s promenade or visit

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