Monday, February 19, 2024

Last full day in Ottawa/Gatineau

I'm not going to go deep into the great divide between English-speaking Canada and French-speaking Canada, and then that oddball New Brunswick that is both English- and French-speaking, but suffice to say that there's a long history of why Canada is the way that it is.  My paternal grandfather's side of the family is from French Canada so it's time to learn some.

The Canadian Museum of History is immediately across the main bridge from Ottawa.  If you take both sides of the river together you get a decent sized city, but don't.  Don't take the two sides of the river together.  They are not one big town.  Gatineau is part of Quebec and is French through and through.

Originally we'd talked about hitting both the History and the Canadian War Museum, but both were open from 10-4, so we opted to do the History since we'd already visited the Canadian Warplane Museum in Hamilton a few months ago. The most direct walkable bridge was closed for renovations, so we Ubered over and then walked our way home a little more roundabout.  Even then, the return walk was only about 45 minutes and we passed the Canadian War Museum on the walk - not a big town.

But first, food.  Across the street from the museum is a bagel place.  These are not NY bagels in the slightest, but they are authentic.  I can't even say Montreal style, because that is a thing, as I've never been to Montreal and don't know, but... recommended.

We took the museum backwards, starting at the top and at the end - the late 20th century, and slowly rewound the years to the bottom floor that showcased First People's homes, art, clothing, and totems.  I'll say this, I don't really recommend this method as we did a lot of "who is this person?" or "what does that word mean?" only to find the introduction to said person or term in the next room.  This was particularly frustrating with the whole French separatist movement and the various referendums (and OMG, did Charles de Gaulle really say that IN CANADA?)

U.S. History from outside the U.S.... always fascinating.

Canada seems to be acknowledging its history a little better than the U.S.  The section on colonization discusses agreements broken, atrocities, and more.  A heart-breaking section on the forced re-education of indigenous children, where the death of those children at remote schools from cold, malnutrition, and abuse was viewed as better than allowing them to be raised by their families, had exhibits under review for whether they told the story as truthfully as they could.  The parallels between Canada, the U.S. and Australia should not surprise anyone as all three countries hail from the same pool of colonizers, with the same ideas about white colonizer superiority and methodology of destroying cultures not their own.

The Embassy.

The walk home crossed a bridge by the hydro plant, a river walk park, and past the Parliament.  We made our way to the Byward area, picked up a beaver tail and considered getting poutine (we decided we're still going to wait until we get to Montreal... we have a poutinerie behind our building in Toronto, this is a hard decision to keep!)

Ottawa was a fun trip and a nice introduction to train travel in Canada.  The next time we go, we'll try to arrange a visit during Winterlude.  Hopefully the Rideau Canal will be open too.

Saturday, February 10, 2024

Art in Ottawa

I haven't made it to the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) or the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) yet, but while in Ottawa, I visited the National Gallery of Canada for all the art and then we crossed the "border" to the Canadian Museum of History on the Quebec side of town in Gatineau.

I'm still not at all knowledgeable about modern art but it often intrigues me into the "why?? no really, why???" questions.  A metal box.  A black painted canvas with a single strip of yellow.  I like looking at it just for the brain exercise and confusion.

The religious pieces periodically grab my attention by how serious they take themselves.  So much emotion in every face.  Usually the detail is through the roof.  

The period masters always stop me for a long while, the Monet and Van Gogh tribe of painters.

For still lifes, portraiture, or mythical scenes, I tend to focus on the edges and see what odd things the artist incorporated into the background.  That's typically where you find the best lounging cats, hunted squirrels, or slinking demons.

Peek-a-boo owl...

Like, who are these people/ghosts/demons?

Gingers and their devil bugs.

But really what I went for was the early Canadian artists, both the First Peoples and the colonizers as they moved around the northern landscape and painted, drew, and carved what they saw. 

There was a "Group of Seven" (all men) who take up a lot of space in the museum.  I could see why.  Later, there were other official "groups" of artists that included women.

J.E.M. MacDonald

Lawren S. Harris

Arthur Lismer

Franklin Carmichael

Lawren Harris

Tom Thomson

Emily Carr

The Indigenous People's art is always fascinating, even if I don't understand as much of it.

The bear's like "You take my ice, I take your kayak"

The four above are by Nick Sikkuark.

The gallery I went into was for Riopelle. The exhibit moved decade by decade. He did huge pieces and moved from massive swipes of paint to mixed media.  I think the geese were my favorite of his.

But you know I can't leave a post without a hokey mention.....

There's a second large art museum in Ottawa, but I have to save some things to see next time, right?