The Lemiez Statues, Manitoba.
This one is so unique, I thought it deserved it’s own post.
Hidden away on a farm in Central Manitoba is a series of bizarre and unique life-size statues that you would never expect on the Canadian prairies.
A series of 21 statues were created by local farmer Armand Lemiez.
Lemiez was born in Belgium in 1894 and moved to Canada with his mother and sister in 1911. An avid oil painter, he lived with his mother until her death in 1950. It wasn’t until the age of 72 that he started working on his sculptures.
The site was eventually bought by a farmer in the local Grahamdale area. On a recent visit to the site I had the good fortune of meeting him and discussing the statues.
In 1980, Lemiez wanted to turn the sculptures into a park and turned to the government for assistance. He was turned down because in their opinion his work had “no significant cultural value.”
Thankfully, the current owner still maintains the site to this day, but he worries that they won’t survive.
I first heard of the statues on a trip from an old friend. The Lemiez Statues Manitoba site is relatively tricky to find – look for it just south of Grahamdale along Highway 6, about 200 km north of Winnipeg.
The subjects at first seem to be a random collection of mythical creates and human figures.
However, they were often inspired by religion or current political events of the time like “Nixon and the Police” which was an anti-war statement about Nixon’s involvement in the Vietnam war.
They were created from metal frames bent into the shapes of the creatures. Home-mixed concrete was hand poured and formed to make the sculptures.
Each piece usually has charming names like one of my favourites, which is an ape with glasses called “Grandfather Interpreting Income Tax.”
The “Jumper & Lion” was created in 1967 (Canada’s Centennial) and represents the struggle between British and French influences in Canada.
One of the highlights for me was “Dinosaurs” depicting a Ceratosaurus and Triceratops.
It’s sad that these figures are not properly preserved or recognized as they show unique rural imagery using local material and tools only found around his homestead.
The home-made concrete really gives the figures a life of their own and remind me of something they found in the remains of Pompeii.
Sadly, this inconsistent concrete mix will eventually cause these sculptures to collapse like this one inspired by the Perseus and Pegasus statue found in the Place de la Concorde in Paris.
Lemiez’ statues playfully interacted with each other and the world around them – Eve originally pointed to the actual apple orchard on the farm. Now she is a crumbled pile on the ground.
Thankfully, the farmer who purchased the land has set aside the area for visitors. He has also tried to get government assistance, however a researcher from the province blocked progress on the funding for an unknown reason and the case hasn’t moved since.
Armand never married, but the wonderfully cryptic ” Armand’s ‘Wife’ ” has the inscription “Welcome to my place I get along very good with my husband Armand I never quarrel with him. But he leave me in the cold Rosema forgive me.”
Little is known about his paintings. Hundreds were displayed in his “Memorial to Pioneers” gallery that he built on his land, however it is no longer there and nobody knows where the paintings are.
Love Your Neighour
“Love Your Neighbour” is inscribed on his fallen self-portrait.
Which, in his words, was “the best religion.”
Armand Lemiez passed away on May 13th, 1984 and is buried in a small cemetery in nearby Grahamdale.