The Mennonite Heritage Centre (MHC) Gallery is featuring Ray Dirks’ exhibit, Thankful: moments, memories, and some art, in which the gallery founder and retired curator reflects on his lifetime of work.
The exhibit runs until Jan. 14 at the gallery on the grounds of Canadian Mennonite University in Winnipeg.
Dirks’ art weaves together vibrant colours and typography, telling the stories of people around the world, from Mexico to India to the Democratic Republic of Congo. He writes in the exhibit that his desire to learn from people of other cultures and faiths and respectfully honour them has always been at the core of his work.
His career has included curating exhibitions of contemporary African art, painting as artist-in-residence at Yale University, publishing books, receiving the Manitoba Lieutenant Governor's Award for the Advancement of Interreligious Understanding and directing the MHC Gallery for 23 years. He has worked in more than a dozen African countries, across North America and beyond.
Lord of Time
This is one of three five-foot-by-five-foot icon-inspired paintings that toured churches in Canada and the U.S. for several years. (Image courtesy of Ray Dirks)
The women in the image are leaders from Tlamacazapa, Guerrero state, Mexico, a remote, marginalized Indigenous community. Dirks was asked by Atzin Mexico (a Mexican NGO) to be one of two artists, along with Cuernavaca printmaker Alejandro Aranda, to form the core of a touring exhibition (in Mexico and Canada) about the women weavers of Tlamacazapa. (Image courtesy of Ray Dirks)
There is surely a future hope for you
This image is from a series of 14 paintings from Dirks’ personal experiences in several countries, all with titles taken from the book of Proverbs. The women in this painting are from a village in Rajasthan, India that Dirks visited along with Manju Lodha, a long-time friend, fellow artist and frequent project partner. Manju and Dirks were in India in 2009 for joint solo exhibitions in Jaipur. In 2018, Manju and Dirks together received the Manitoba Lieutenant Governor's Award for the Advancement of Interreligious Understanding. Over a decade, the two brought together the book, A world of faith and spirituality: Yours, mine, theirs & ours, published in 2022 and available through the MHC Gallery or CommonWord. (Image courtesy of Ray Dirks)
Maria Martens Pauls
This image is one of 26 paintings in the series, Along the road to freedom: Mennonite women of courage and faith. The paintings honour Mennonite women who brought, or attempted to bring, their children out of the former Soviet Union. The series of paintings toured to 19 venues in Canada and the U.S. and was recently donated to Canadian Mennonite University. (Image courtesy of Ray Dirks)
Ray Dirks addresses the people gathered at the MHC Gallery on Friday, November 18 for the opening of an exhibit celebrating his life’s work. (Photo by Katie Dirks)