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Gwen Tuinman

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nostalgia

Hats: A Love Story

I used to dislike wearing hats. They didn’t suit me. Millinery shops would draw me to try on hats. I’d pick a style shown in magazines, the type of hat that should be worn by women I admired—the sort who laughed with abandon, ate life like it was a juicy apple, and never second guessed themselves. When I looked at my reflection in the mirror, the hat occupied the entire frame. I disappeared.  

The first hat I ever wore was a baby bonnet secured with an under-the-chin bow. In spite of burgeoning liberation of the 1960s, mothers didn’t wheel hatless babies around town. What would people say?

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Notes on Riding a Bird

If I could take a ride on anything in the world, I’d choose a bird. As a child, I loved the story of Thumbelina, a girl—you guessed it—the size of a thumb. She could stand eye to eye with a frog, sail a fallen leaf across a pond and wear buttercups as hats.

The book illustrations were in a style reminiscent of the Victorians. My favourite was of Thumbelina riding a cerulean blue barn swallow with a burnt orange belly and a split tail. Together they soared above farms, church steeples, and villages. I hope an illustrator one day sees Thumbelina as an Indian girl swooping along the Ganges River, an afroed girl rocking Black Girl Magic a mile above her neighbourhood, or a First Nation girl leaning over a wing to touch the tops of soft pines.

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First Art Piece

I read an essay recently in which the writer reflects on the first piece of art she’d ever bought as a young woman. The purchase of this large gaudy painting, she declared years later, made no sense then or now. She deemed the colours too bright, and the subject matter unaligned with her cultural identity. By the final paragraph, however, she concludes that the painting reflected her mood at the time of purchase.

It got me to thinking about the first art I’d purchased. It’s become such a part of my environ that I haven’t considered it for some time. The piece is a stone sculpture by George Henry. I acquired it around 1978 at the gallery in Whetung Ojibwa Centre of Curve Lake, Ontario.

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