Ottawa – Parliament Hill, art & the ex-boyfriend

After brunch on the Sunday, I rendezvoused with my old college boyfriend Rob who was in Montreal for his own high school reunion. We had planned to meet up on Sunday after brunch but we actually caught sight of each other as he was just walking in from the parking lot at noon on Saturday and I was just leaving for my Beaconsfield High School Reunion. He recognized me from my up to date facebook pictures and what a hoot! His colors just matched my own! Too darned funny!

My hotel roommate said “You’re going to stay with your old college boyfriend and your spouses are okay with that?) Uh, yeah, why what do you think we’re going to get up to?? Crikey, we’re both happily and long time married. About as wild and crazy as it got was us having a couple of glasses of wine and laughing at our stories and screaming for the Ottawa Senators as they played Stanley Cup hockey.

Actually he hadn’t already told his wife who just happened to be working over in Europe after all, the big doofus. She phoned just after he cracked our fried eggs into the sizzling butter for our first breakfast together. He answered the phone then called over to me “Paula, can you watch the eggs while I take this call.” You can imagine her reaction to that! Who the heck is Paula and what is she doing in my kitchen at breakfast time?? He had to back pedal a bit but the neighbors saw us several times and we ran into good friends of theirs as he was showing me around downtown Ottawa on a lovely sunny warm Victoria Day holiday Monday and I feel 99% confident that they’ll report back to Mrs. Rob that I seemed to be a pretty normal kind of a gal, except for the slightly kooky hair. No one was going to get to report any juicy gossip because a bit fat nothing naughty happened. About the naughtiest thing we did was drop crumbs on the tile floor without the dog(see the sweetie below) to come along and hoover them up for us. Cripes, it’s been about 35 years since we’ve seen each other. At least we still have our own teeth and hair and legs…

We had lots of stories to share. Rob had been a good friend of my older brother whose life has not turned out that well and a good friend to my friend Christine who died sadly before her time so there was a lot of sharing to paint in those tough pictures. On the happier side, we shared how we met our spouses, our children, (mine, human and his, canine, above), the various countries we had both lived in, how our lives diverged since we pulled the plug on our one year romance way way back in John Abbott days, our common friends from the old days.

Luckily Rob had the holiday Monday off and it was a sunny early summer day when he got to show off his downtown Ottawa walking tour of the Parliament Hill sites which laid the foundation for my own foray over there a few days later. Lots of street crowds and families enjoying ice cream and street performers including this young guy doing a Houdini straight jacket escape act hanging upside down by his feet over some flaming torches.

Tuesday morning Rob was off to work even before I got up. Luckily he had given me a stack of bus tickets and I was out of the house just after 9 off to the city by bus, about an hour’s trip. My super handy iPhone app Google Maps helped me navigate my route and I arrived at my number one destination, the National Gallery of Canada before 10:30. Believe it or not, I spent the entire day there, only leaving at 5 when they shut the doors on us. The last time I had been there was 2001 and the next time is perhaps never so I made the most of seeing our collective Canadian art collection. As no photography was allowed, I made copious notes on the floor plan map as I navigated my way through the maze of rooms and collections.

Here’s my top faves:

Sakahàn: International Indigenous Art
17 May 2013 - 02 Sep 2013
Daniel Guzman - faux gold chain sculpture, 3 m tall water droplet
Vernon Ah Kee - Maori video about Maori surfer Dale Richards, probably had some underwriting by Billabong, Puma and Quicksilver as those clothes were well featured, lovely vision of water with camera below, above or at water surface, shows the swoosh of waves and sand underwater, shows a surf board wrapped in barbed wire wrapped being hung from a tree, being shot at with guns, lying like a dead body in water, very good
Jeffery Gibsons - paintings on stretched elk hide
Outi Pieski - dark roiling waves painting which look like lava

***Brett Graham & Rachel RakeraAniwaniwa video, shown in long black room with 2 long rows of black futons on floor. You lie down and watch a row of 5 large rounded screens which play video in slightly different vantage points of same scene, Shows people going about their normal daily activities in their homes and town except the town is now under water as town has been flooded for hydro project. Very good. Taking down laundry, ghostly tops of telephone poles, walking with briefcase, putting clothes on but quite mysterious and other worldy because underwater, very seductive sound effects and visuals
Nicolas Galanin - looks like small carved masks but are bibles carved into shapes and standing facing viewer side on
Kent Monkman - very irreverent comical imagery of cultural misappropriations and mixing of cultures with natives, figurative art
Brian Jungen - pierced and carved red plastic gas cans
Maikai Tubbs - A Life Of Its Own, site specific installation made from white plastic cutlery formed into beautiful glossy flowery invasive plant climbing over wall to show invasive problem of plastic into environment

*Terence Houle – clever video of modern native fellow in native costume with glasses and loin cloth giving talk in silent native sign language followed by the black and white written translation of what he has just portrayed in sign, speaks about fact that natives were here long before the people who are seen walking past in a park or on a sidewalk in modern world. A German tourist butts in and asks him to pose and smile for his own camera, the native obliges them politely then returns back to correct spot in his own sign speech without missing a trick or stepping out of his character
*Marie Watt – very tall stack of folded Indian blankets with card tags and written stories that people sent her, very good
***Tim Pitsiulak – Snow Mobile on Canoe, tall excellent detailed colour drawing of a boat with all its cargo including a ski-doo which sits across it, the snowy white ice is the paper which is shaped dramatically on 3 m tall x 1 m wide paper, great drawings!
*Doug Smarch – Lucinations, Tlingit, interesting video projected on web of white turkey feathers
*Nadia Myre – red beads on white paper, beading over typing of the Indian Act, very good
Wangechi Mutu – 8 collages on wall which looked like it was shot out with guns
Venkat Raman Singh Shyam – figurative drawings from India
Shuvinai Ashoona – drawings

Permanent collection


*Paul-Emile Borduas - Tahitian, above
Alfred Pellan - Young Actor
E J Hughes - charming river boats
Prudence Heward – Rolland portrait
Lilias Torrence Newton
*F H Varley – Vera
Ernest Lawson – Winter
James-Kerr Lawson – La Caterina, full size portrait of woman in formal faconne white satin dress with train like society gowns my couturier grandmother used to sew for Westmount society ladies
Delightful Rideaux Hall - tiny church in the heart of the museum
Antoine Plamondeau – Sister Saint-Alphonse 1841
Rubens – woodcut Susanna and the Elders
Anthony Van Dyck – large finished painting reunited with 3 life study paintings for the children which have far more life than the finished piece!
Robert Henri – nice life size portraits, one of my faves in Seattle is his portrait of Jessica?
Albert Marquet – Small Square With Street Lamp Paris, 1904, gorgeous colors, skin tone peachy paint on the main square
Klimt – Hope 1
Paul Cezanne – Portrait of a Peasant
*Edgar Degas – At The Café-Concert, 1884
Jean-Leon Gerome – Portrait of Woman, 1850
*James Tissot – The Japanese Scroll, everything in picture used for maximum decorative effect
Henri Raeburn – Jacobine Copland 1798
Louis-Leopold Boilly – Portrait of a Young Woman, 1825, tiny sweet, looks like my friend Gaelen

***Joseph Chinard – The Empress Josephine, sculpture marble bust with exquisite pierced marble on shoulder ruffles and amazing crown.
Jean-Simeon Chardin – The Return From The Market, charming domestic scene

Thomas Gainsborough – Ignatious Sancho, portrait of black soldier painted in 1 hr 40 min, life size head and chest in costume!!!
*Guiseppe Maria Crispi – Allegory of the Arts, 1780, swirling blue dress, large square painting
Austrian polychrome angel carving, with gold and silver leaf
George Frederick Watts – Portrait of a Young Man, looks like Johnny Depp, men and women would both fall in love with this beautiful young man

**Honore Daumier – Man on A Rope
Barthel Beham – Ursula Von Weichs, 1531 portrait with latest style of bobbed hair, looks so fresh, could have been painted today or in 1930s, painted sitter in very flattering light, not true to her image
Circle of Jorg Lederer – polychrome sculpture of the Magdalene

 20th century
George Segal gas station casts and settings
Edward Wadsworth – Dazzle Ships at Drydock in Liverpool 1919
Betty Goodwin
Alex Colville, nice work but the people do not really seem to be grounded on the ground

**Mary Pratt – Red Currant Jelly, wow!!! A small gem!! About 18x18
Kureleks which have similarities in visuals and humour to Vancouver’s Michael Abraham
Tom Hodgson
Harold Town
John Meredith
*Greg Curnoe – The Camouflaged Piano, with great Hotel sign and lights on top
*Riopelle – Pavane triptych, super
*Jean McEwan – Frost garden

Contemporary art

* David Altmeid – The Vessel, large Plexiglas box with very airy assemblage which looks like a swans pulling a vessel from Cleopatra, long swan necks with heads from casts of artist’s hands and even his ears, pulled together horizontally with white or nylon threads, very light and beautiful, looks almost like its made of clear glass

Brian Jungen – basketball court made from sewing machine work tables as the floor, refers to the sweat shops which make the expensive sneakers that players wear and the difference between their quality of life

Bob de Tredici photos on nuclear weapons situation, friend of my mother’s

Various items which really make tax payers angry as to use of their money! BIGGER DOES NOT ALWAYS MAKE IT BETTER is my comment on a few large rather vapid pieces of nonsense which will go unnamed

*Pascal Grandmaison – Coney Island theme park in sort of slow rotation and just ambient sounds, really nice!

Group of Seven
W P Weston
- High Olympus
* Lauren S Harris – Beaver Pond
McCallum-Jackman cottage
**When you arrive in Room A108 you know you’re in the presence of greatness!!
**Tom Thomson – Northern River & Jack Pine
** tiny plein air studies near that room
Croscup Room

New Voices From The North - Native art
Jobie Weetaluktuk video, my friend Carol’s husband from the North
Jackoposie Oopakka – huge stone caribou head with massive carved antlers sculpture
**Luke Airut – carved walrus skull and tusks
**Billy Gauthier – Swimming Loons, carved from antlers
*Jutai Toonoo – large drawings, self portraits and angry face, figurative

I arrived back home by bus and was very grateful that Rob picked me up at the bus stop. It’s only a 6 minute walk but the rain was torrential and the puddles were massive! I debriefed my brain over a nice glass of wine and shared the highlights of my art visit with him, bringing images to life with my passion and enthusiasm. He was amazed I had spent the entire day in the one museum but art is what I really travel for. Heck, I can go shopping at home and I’d rather spend 5-7 hours in a good museum than in a shopping mall any day. I’d rather poke myself in the eye with a hot knitting needle than spend 7 hours in a shopping mall… except for about once a year when I take myself on a mental health day and look only at fine design and very expensive fashion that in no way can I afford. It feeds my soul. I can buy what I need in simple stores and I make or cobble together and upcycle thrift store finds with trims from my sewing room for my really great pieces. So much more fun than buying them at the Mall.

Rob and his wife are art lovers and their house has some real little gems which they picked up mainly at auctions over the years. Very good eye!

Wednesday I targeted the gallery St Laurent Plus Hill that figurative artist Kai McCall had recommended when I visited his studio in Montreal. The very nice fellow there pointed me in the direction of other good galleries and I bussed around to check them out, dashing in and out of the rain as it came and went with wild eastern abandon.

Ottawa art galleries & great designer boutiques I stumbled across

St Laurent Plus Hill & Gallery 3 - Michael Harrington, Kai McCall, Stephen Hutchings, Patrick Higgins, Dana Holst (Some Rainbows are Black), Tim Des Clouds assemblage boxes (Fly Me To The Moon), Benjamin Rodger, Amy Huestis, Jaber Lutfi, Isabelle Gauvreau, Michael Harvey collects garbage on Montreal streets, sorts by colour then assembles and glazes with resin, Julie Liger Belaire, Jean-Francois Prevost

Cube – Reid McLachlan, Katherine McNenly, Russell Yuristy, Victoria Wonnacott, Kristy Gordon, 3 small squares filled with oil portrait abut 6x6, nice format, Rosalie Favell, Jennifer Gibbs

Orange – Bill McCann, Gwendolyn Best, Stephen Frew, Ann-Marie Brown

Gordon Harrison – gorgeous colorful fresh landscapes, art retreats, classes, really fresh and nice

Exposure Gallery – Dodie Lewis

Renée Lévesque – fabulous jewellery, above, from Montreal designer. What a beautiful shop! Very good color eye and buying sense. This shop would do well just about anywhere. The workroom at the back was a little treasure trove of beads and findings sorted by color family. They may offer classes soon, locations in Montreal and Ottawa.

Came across some Anne-Marie Chagnon jewelry with Montreal figurative artist Lina Vandal as model on the card, a pretty woman and fabulous jewellery, funky, comfortable and wearable. Yes please!

Richard Robinson - A sign for Fabric Sale drew me in to see their swankydoodle fabrics, buttons and trims. The finished garments were exquisitely made with fine fabrics and beautiful little details at cuffs, etc. If you need a suit to have tea with the Queen or the Governor General, this is the place to come for it. $wellelegant!

Kaliyana – very smart alternative line of womens clothing from Montreal, big and droopy with interesting soft fabrics for women who are confident enough with their bodies not to have to flaunt them in tight fitting outfits.


I made my way back to the Houses of Parliament area and walked as much of it as I could, seeing the Peace Tower, the Library, the Senate, the Supreme Court and eventually the canal and the lovely Notre Dame church. The top Ottawa sites for a quick day walking trip in my opinion.

On my third and final day, I headed straight for the Museum of Civilization just across the river in Gatineau. I arrived around 11, left at 4 and just had time to see everything there. Very nicely laid out and sign posted. This museum focuses on history of cultures in Canada back to the earliest hunters and gatherers found within our shores, early native peoples before the Europeans arrived then after their arrival up to modern times, an interesting mix of modern and historical.

Many tiny ermine pelts make up this magnificent headress.

Old lacrosse sticks and a very new "quilt" made of computer motherboards, etc, interesting juxtaposition of old and new.

A temporary exhibition of Voodoo was a show stopper!!!! Five out of five stars for this one!!! This is the personal collection of a Swiss woman who found herself being offered objects in Haiti of great spiritual value when their owners were in dire financial straights. And so she has become to caretaker for this remarkable intimate collection of objects which have great spiritual significance to the followers of Voodoo in Haiti. It is her wish that the collection eventually find its way back to Haiti and that it can be cherished and valued with the same importance that Catholics, Jews or Muslims value their religious art. A M A Z I N G. Probably the art highlight of my entire 2 week trip!!

The childrens museum section was completely charming, a small scale trip around the world with lots for the little people to enjoy.

Home for a quick little dinner at 6 then out to the airport to fly back to my own little life in Gibsons, BC. With my high school reunion and art visits to Montreal and Ottawa and all kinds of friends caught up and reconnected with, I’m back to my own artwork and family life. Thanks all, I had a swell trip! Thanks Rob, you were a perfect gentleman. Maybe I’ll do it again in another 5 or 10 years at the next reunion…



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