Montreal sites, from fine art to exotic insects

Montreal sites, from fine art to exotic insects

May 26, 2013 | Airbnb, ART, photography, travel | No Comments

In my week in Montreal all by myself, I took every advantage to be an arts and culture tourist and get out and see things thanks to my trusty transit pass!

My mother used to bring us to Redpath Museum on the McGill Campus when we were small to see the wondrous objects in this small natural history collection. It was just as lovely as I remembered it with a bit of everything: taxidermy specimens, dinosaur skeletons, sparkling collection of seashells, minerals, Egyptian mummies, shrunken heads, fossils, even an undulating boa skeleton on top of tall display box, a surprise treat seen from overhead.


I’ve visited countless small to enormous churches and cathedrals in many countries but somehow had never visited the famous St. Joseph’s Oratory right here. This basilica is fairly modern, built in the Art Deco style, very simple, not ornate at all in keeping with Brother André’s very humble personal style. Brother André was canonized in 2010 to ecstatic Montreal and Quebec review. It was a bit of a puzzle box with lovely separate compartments. The main cathedral part was open and simple. The candle offering area was very unique and darkly sparkling with lines of red jars of candles laid out in a modern way. A lovely little area showed us wax figures of Brother Andre’s very humble living quarters and a small gallery exhibited very contemporary modern art made by Quebec religious members. Very impressive.


The Insectarium is a world class unique museum and discovery center dedicated to insects. Some are live but most are pinned in educational collections and glow like the most valuable and precious diamonds and jewels. For anyone looking for beauty in nature, this is a goldmine of symmetry, patterns, color and perfection, whether they came about due to Divine Design or natural selection. These wondrous creatures are studied by animators, designers, scientists and artists like this below which really looks like a shiny green beetle in a way!

I played back and forth between my regular camera and my Hipstamatic iPhone app, depending in the effect I was aiming for. Because I try to work only from my own photographs, I take lots for my own personal reference library and some may surface and resurface into artworks over time.

Went along with Ann-Marie to her son’s unique Fine Arts Core Education school. The FACE school art fair set up like a Science fair. Each student presented a little French explanation about a famous artist or art movement. One charming little girl was Emily Carr complete with small toy monkey around her neck. I was very impressed with the displays and the excellent French and English which each child recited. Even Ann-Marie’s son who has only been in Quebec and speaking French since last October was very impressive. They take half their classes in English and half in French, not such a stretch for native Montrealers but uni-lingual imports have a challenge jumping into the deep end! Bravo!

The hallways were adorned like any other school with artwork but the level was very impressive and creative.

My days were full, often doing two museums or sites and maybe one meeting with old or new friends each day. I had arranged studio visits to five of my Montreal figurative artists. Read more about each of them by hopping on the links to the FigurativeArtist blog.

Kai McCall figurative art, glamorous gals playing around with rifles

Gianni Guiliano horses and riders reminiscent of the Marlboro Man

Elaine Despins serene figurative paintings like falling into deep pools

Lina Vandal colorful abstract backgrounds with figurative image transfer on top

Marina Dieul portraits of people and animals in a Renaissance style

Claire Desjardins colorful abstract paintings

As I don’t get to practice my French much in BC, I’ve recently switched to reading novels in French and hit a great second hand book store Mona Lisait recommended by my friend’s daughter. Luckily for me, no other customers were around when I was there and the very helpful and charming owner personally helped my pluck out good reads of good value. I came away with about 30 novels that should keep me and my brain going for a good long time. When no customers are around, she practices on her guitar. A real jewel, the store and the owner.

I had a great week of exploring, learning and visiting. It is a very rare treat for me to travel alone and have only myself to please. I can count the times that has happened over the years on one badly mangled hand so thanks Montreal, I had a great time! Thanks to my Airbnb hosts Ruth and Guido who made my stay a comfortable and inexpensive one at under $30 a night for a bedroom in their shared flat in the Little Italy area.

After a week of art and culture, it was time to take the bus out to West Island and get ready for a weekend of hilarity and shared reminiscing of my Beaconsfield High School Reunion, a homecoming for the entire school, not just our year which had about 300 grads itself. More to come on that…

(Sorry, photographs from this post have become lost in blog upgrade some time back, tried to replace a few…)



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