Writing about Art

I’ve been a docent and guide at two art galleries: the Winnipeg Art Gallery from 2013 to 2016, and then at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia beginning in 2016 until now. I decided to volunteer as a gallery guide for two reasons. First, while I have never been an artist or studied art, I have always enjoyed looking at it. And second, when I began to teach children’s literature in the mid-seventies as a specialist in Victorian literature, my experience teaching in an English department gave me some confidence about how to approach children’s stories and poems; but I felt less confident about picture books, which commnicated not just in words but also in pictures. In trying to figure out how they did so, I found myself reading widely in books about art theory and art history–reading that eventually led to my book Words About Pictures: The Narrative art of Children’s Picture Books. Decades later, as I thought about ways to occupy my time after retiring from the University of Winnipeg English department, it occurred to me that I could use the knowledge I’d picked up about how art communicates as an art gallery guide. It has, in fact, turned out to be very useful, and having the opportunity to share it and to have conversations about art with others has been a real pleasure.

Listed here are a few essays about the relationships between children’s literature and art and also, a few piece of writing I’ve done about specific artists and examples of their work included in the permanent collection of the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia.

Some of the Ways in Which Pictures Communicate (a list of a variety of ways in which visual images and other works of art become meaningful, based on the discussion of children’s picture books in my books Words about Pictures.) If you’d prefer to download a PDF of this list in small type on just four easily printable pages, there’s a link to one here:

Maud and Everett and Everything Else (a review of Lance Woolaver’s book about Maud Lewis); the house Maud and Everett lived in is permanently on view at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia.

“Children as “Children of All Ages”: Alexander Calder, David A. Carter, and the Childlikeness of Mobile Art and of the Moveable Book.”Jeunesse: Young People, Texts, Cultures 9.1 (2017): 20-34.

“Touching Art: The Art Museum as a Picture Book, and the Picture Book as Art.” Journal of Literary Education 1 (2018). 6-25.

A discussion of William Heath’s The Boarding and Taking of the American Frigate CHESAPEAKE by H.M. FrIgate SHANNON 1813 (1816)

A Discussion of the Inuit Artist Osuitok Ipeelee’s Sedna, Mother of the Sea Beasts

Discussion of Seated Mi’kmaq Woman Weaving a Basket (artist unknown; possibly William Gush?)

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