Science meets art, plus Indigenous embroidery and some Diefendrama

In this weekend's list: a pair of Ottawa Art Gallery exhibitions, plus a play in which Canada's 13th prime minister explains himself.

2 exhibitions at the OAG top the list, while Canada's 13th PM takes the stage

Juan Geuer invented interactive contraptions to help people engage with science. This loom drum, for example, is made from Plexiglas, a motor, lights, 12-volt circuits, a map and a system of lenses. (Justin Wonnacott)

Worth checking out this weekend: two exhibitions at the Ottawa Art Gallery — one on a revived Indigenous cultural tradition, the other on the intersection of science and art — and a play in which Canada's 13th prime minister explains himself.

Science illuminated

He was a scientist fascinated by earthquakes, space and plate tectonics — but Juan Geuer was also a pioneering artist who hoped to unlock his field's mysteries for others.

The Almonte, Ont., native built futuristic inventions out of mirrors, motors and Plexiglas, designed so that the curious could perform experiments and learn something about scientific phenomena.

Now, the Ottawa Art Gallery (OAG) is hosting Carbon + Light: Juan Geuer's Luminous Precision, a 3D representation of Geuer's obsessions. 

Ottawa artist Darsha Hewitt's Electrostatic Bell Choir is on display at the OAG. Geuer was her artistic mentor. (Sandra Abma/CBC)

"He was interested in everything," said Catherine Sinclair, the gallery's senior curator.

Sinclair first met Geuer — who died in 2009 — decades ago when he used to drop by the old gallery.

"He loved science so much, he wanted everyone to experience it," 

The exhibition also includes work by artists mentored by Geuer that bridge the worlds of science, technology and art.

  • Where: Ottawa Art Gallery, 50 Mackenzie King Bridge.
  • When: The gallery is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.
  • Cost: Free.
Rosalie Favell, with buffalo robe in foreground, puts the finishing touches on the Wrapped in Culture exhibition currently on at the OAG. (Sandra Abma/CBC)

Wrapped up in culture

When Ottawa-based Métis artist Rosalie Favell visited Indigenous communities in Australia in 2016, she met a group of women who were reviving their tradition of the possum skin cloak.

The cloak is a blanket-like garment made for newborns from intricately embroidered pelts stitched together.

"As the child grew into adulthood, they would keep adding more possum skins." said Favell. "They would wrap themselves in their culture to keep warm." 

Métis artist Rosalie Favell poses while wrapped in a possum skin coat created by Australian and Canadian Indigenous artists. (Rosalie Favell)

Favell was reminded of the Blackfoot tradition of the buffalo robe, and saw the possibility of a creative collaboration between Indigenous artists from both continents. 

So for three weeks in Ottawa, artists met to cut, stitch and embroider together. The results are now hanging at the OAG: a huge possum skin cloak and a buffalo robe of the same size, adorned with traditional symbols and fine beadwork.

Photographs of the artists "enveloped and comforted and proudly wearing their culture" accompany the Wrapped in Culture exhibition.

  • Where: Ottawa Art Gallery, 50 Mackenzie King Bridge.
  • When: The gallery is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.
  • Cost: Free.
Pierre Brault and Peter Haworth co-star in Brault's play Dief the Chief, which revisits the Cuban Missile Crisis. (Sandra Abma/CBC)

Dief the Chief

In 1962, John Diefenbaker was riding high, having been elected prime minister with the largest majority in Canadian history.

But when Soviet warheads were discovered on the island of Cuba in October of that year,  Diefenbaker's handling what would be known as the Cuban Missile Crisis both called his leadership into question and changed his political fortunes.

Pierre Brault's play Dief the Chief revisits the anxious days of the Cold War, shedding light on the politician's actions and accomplishments.

Peter Haworth is PM John Diefenbaker in 'Dief the Chief'.

4 years ago
Duration 1:06
The play, written by Pierre Brault, who also co-stars , revisits the Cuban missile crisis.

Actor Peter Haworth inhabits the role of Diefenbaker, with Brault playing an old acquaintance who takes the elderly politician on a tour of the Diefenbunker.

Archival newsreels used in the play recreate the edgy atmosphere of a world teetering on the brink of nuclear war.

  • Where: The Gladstone Theatre, 910 Gladstone Ave.
  • When: Monday, April 15, to Saturday, April 20.
  • Cost: Adults $39, seniors $35 and students $23. Tickets can be purchased here.


Sandra Abma


Sandra Abma is a veteran CBC arts journalist. If you have an event or idea you want to share, please do at


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