Joseph Légaré was the primary focus of our lecture today, and we also began to examine the movement towards works of art being created that contained a sense of belonging within the land.  However, it was a topic brought up somewhat halfway through the lecture that caught my attention.

Ex-voto or votive paintings were painted by everyday people as a way of expressing their thanks for a disaster being averted.  Because most of the Europeans in Canada were Catholic at this time, there likely would have been many of these paintings seeing as they would usually be presented to the altars of Saints.  The concept of these paintings is quite interesting, the idea of expressing thanks to a higher power through art.  But if you think about it, many works have had religious or biblical tones over the entirety of European art history, such as the wealth of Madonna paintings from the 18th and 19th centuries.  Landscape paintings that included people were often inspired by Biblical or mythical stories.

The interesting thing about ex voto paintings, that separates them from paintings with religious connotations, is that ex-voto paintings were not executed by artists.  They are done by anyone, just everyday people like you and me.  Clearly, expressing thanks and gratitude towards God through art was very important to these people.  But also, these works allow anyone to be an artist and to express themselves through artwork.  Even though, when we look at these works, we would not necessarily classify them as masterpieces, there is something about the idea of a person who is untrained in art, and who does not see themselves as an artist, painting to express themselves that is very interesting.  I wonder if these people saw what they were doing as a necessity or if they chose to paint because they wanted to.  Painting a picture of thanks is not always necessary, as there are other ways to show the saint appreciation, either through candles or flowers or an offering of food to the poor.  Perhaps they found the painting to be therapeutic, if the event they had gone through was particularly trying.  Maybe ex-voto paintings were the beginnings of art therapy!

Ex Voto of a Drowning

This particular ex voto is one that I believe Gemey showed in class.  I can certainly see how working with paint would be soothing after going through such a trial!

Nowadays, people use art therapy for all kinds of different things.  One use I learned about in my Arctic Ethnography class last year, is that often, art therapists will work with First Nations people, using art as the medium.  I found a very interesting article on the University of Windsor website that talks about using holistic arts methods with Aboriginal women that you may want to take a peek at, if it interests you:

http://www.uwindsor.ca/criticalsocialwork/holistic-arts-based-group-methods-with-aboriginal-women

Well that’s all for now! Watch out for another post coming sometime this week!

-Brit

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