Shortly after my father passed away, I was going through old family photographs when I began to wonder how I could honour those women who came before us. The idea of remembering what our grandmothers have done, often without recognition, inspired me to begin creating a body of work consisting of weekly portrait paintings based on photographs and stories that have been shared with me.
My goal was to include our ancestors and to share their stories in order to share the challenges and successes of these women. As the Covid-19 pandemic hit worldwide during this process, I found 'The Grandmothers' project to be even more important. So many of these women had survived world wars, droughts, poverty, violence and illness. They were uprooted from their families and still found a way to support and encourage their children and grandchildren.
Each day I entered my studio, I was encouraged by the faces and stories of these women. With this project I wanted to honour the women who have made a difference in the lives of their families, through their portraits and their stories and memories of their sacrifices and how they overcame many challenges. They give me hope.
'The Grandmothers' book is now available for preview and purchase online via Blurb Books here.
About 1 1/2 years ago I started another altered book, this book was titled 'Worthy' and, though I loved the title, I wasn't sure what I was going to do with it. I started by gathering together all my materials...rubber stamps, lace, ribbons, hole punches, magazine clippings, photographs, paint swatches, small envelopes and gouache paint. After gluing things throughout the book, I began removing pages where it was too thick, and adding pages where I felt something was needed. I kept gluing and cutting and painting until it began to come together. Over the Christmas holiday, as I was cleaning out my studio, I decided to keep the book on my drafting table so that I would continue to work on it. And it is finally finished! It makes me really happy to flip through the pages, so I know it's perfect for me.
For awhile I've been preparing these canvases for a new project...actually two parts of a new project. The first stack will be 'Extraordinary Women: Part I' and the second 'Extraordinary Women: Part II'. When I was interviewed about 'The Grandmothers' project recently, I was asked what was next...I kind of fumbled an answer so I think I'll wait a couple of weeks before I begin, I need the break in any case, plus I have an exam to prepare for (math...yikes!). Anyway, since I had these canvases set aside for art classes in schools that didn't happen this year, I've decided that Part I will consist of 18-7x14 canvases and Part II 14-8x10, so 32 canvases in all, not quite the 52 or 100 that I've been leaning towards in the past. The other thing that is different this year is that my focus will be on using non-toxic professional grade oil pigments which I will be mixing myself. That is very exciting to me. So, it will be a year of experimentation and a big shift in my way of working. A little nervous, but mostly excited.
Several people have asked about the purchase of 'The Grandmothers' paintings. Since our current circumstances are still a bit of a challenge, the date for the exhibit hasn't been set yet, so those who are interested in purchasing a painting may at this time. Each piece is painted on 8x10 gallery depth canvas and will come with their story and are listed at $275 each. If you would like more information, please email me at any time here.
Over the past few months I chose to work on an abstract series of gallery depth canvases in order to ground myself in these turbulent times. Each mixed media painting was inspired by the colours of the sky and graffiti on the streets and a variety of music, as I believe that nature and the arts are extremely important, especially now. My goal was to create work that could be hung in any direction and that pieces would complement each other so that they could also be displayed together (like a quilt or a puzzle), allowing the viewer to be part of the creative process. I have decided to focus on small works so would like to find these canvases new homes. You are welcome to use them as a base for new works and I am also open to adding an image to a canvas as well (ie. canoe, wildflower, tipi...see my portfolio for ideas). I can safely deliver to a doorstep within the Calgary region (and, eventually, the Lethbridge region) otherwise shipping charges will added and, as always, would be happy to donate pieces to support special causes. The available works are shown on my SALE page and sizes are listed in inches (click on each image to enlarge). If there are any questions, please do contact me via email here.
Huge gratitude to Scott Strasser of the Airdrie CityView for another lovely article on 'The Grandmothers' project. If you are interested in reading it, please visit the article online here.
I started keeping an annual journal in 2005 and in 2008 I began selecting a word to set my focus or tone for the year ahead, rather than setting resolutions (I'm not so good at keeping those). I thought that after the year that has just passed, I wanted to be sure to select something gentle. Here's to a much kinder year ahead.
If you want to learn more about selecting a Word-of-the-Year, please visit Christine Kane's website here, where I first read of the practice, though I have since learned that it began in Germany as 'Wort des Jahres'. You can also read more about my previous words here.
Thank you for sharing the heart-warming stories and beautiful photographs of your grandmothers this year. I don't know what the year would have been for me if not for this project. As always, I have learned a few things:
What a year it has been! In spite of the difficulty of living through a world pandemic, there have been a few highlights. I am so grateful for my family's health, though I do miss them terribly, and I know that I need to focus on the positives right now...so here goes:
In the 1920s, my great-grandmother Gertruda (Wiens) Toews was a midwife who is still recognized at the hospital where she worked in Paraguay, South America. She was known to have delivered the healthiest babies while ensuring each mother’s safety as she always referenced a Canadian medical textbook that highly regarded cleanliness and sterilization. She boiled and ironed the aprons that she wore, boiled and disinfected scissors and other tools required during deliveries with rubbing alcohol, all while raising her own seven children.
“Midwife Gertruda Toews, born Wiens, born on January 30, 1882 in Canada, came with her husband Jacob F. Toews in the fourth emigration group to Paraguay. she was 45 years old at the time. The family first settled in Schontal, later in Osterwick, and at the age of retirement moved to Loma Plata. Seven children were born to Toews.
In many years of obstetric care, she has helped many babies into the world. She assisted the women giving birth in Canada and then in the Menno Colony. It is reported that she had a doctoral degree in which she read a lot and then put that knowledge into practice.
She is told that she was one of the few midwives who worked very cleanly. Before every examination and birth, she washed her hands very carefully with soap and water and disinfected them with alcohol. She had no gloves, because these were not yet available as a tool. In her work as a midwife, she always had a white apron, which she carefully washed, boiled and ironed. She also had other visitors with her, who always washed and worked carefully. Her instrumentation contained a pair of scissors and umbilical cord band, which she placed in alcohol for disinfection before use. For the women under birth, she provided a bed slider. How long she has worked and lived is not known.”
~ Obstetrics in the Menno Colony from the settlement 1927-28 (until the hospital came into existence in the late 1940s), edited by the History Committee, published by Friesen Printing, Loma Plata, Paraguay, November 2004
~ Veronica Funk
AIRdirondack Art Project
Alberta (above) +