From the Land: Materials & Message in Inuit Art

Nuyaliaq Qimirpik, Spirited Bear, 1993. , Stone. Collection of the Winnipeg Art Gallery. Gift of Dr. Harry Winrob. 2006-541 Reproduced with the permission of Public Trustee for Nunavut, Estate of Nuyaliaq Qimirpik.

Chesley Nibgoarsi, Hockey Player, 2006. , Antler, stone. Collection of the Winnipeg Art Gallery. Acquired with funds from the Mr. and Mrs. G.B. Wiswell Fund. 2007-113

In the early 1950s, works by Inuit artists began to be sold in southern markets. Since that era, widely recognized as the beginning of contemporary Inuit art, artists from three successive generations have been creating unique artworks inspired by traditional life on the land, the natural and spirit world, lived experiences, stories and legends. They have been experimenting with a variety of artistic media and techniques resulting in distinctive personal styles. This exhibition features a selection of sculptures and wall hangings from the Winnipeg Art Gallery’s comprehensive collection of Inuit art.

The most common material used by Inuit carvers is stone, but the type of stone varies widely and is dependent upon what can be found locally. Some communities have only small deposits and artists often resort to using organic materials from animals. Netsilingmiut artists from Taloyoak have become known for their creative use of ancient whalebone left on the tundra by their predecessors. Antlers, shed each autumn by caribou, are a common material for carvers in the Kivalliq region. One of the fascinations of Inuit sculpture is how the often scarce materials available have been shaped into extraordinary artworks.

Fabric collage wall hangings emerged as a distinctive new art form in Baker Lake during the 1970s. Inuit women adapted their traditional sewing skills and mastery of stitchery to create high-quality artworks from wool duffle or stroud with felt appliqués and embroidery. The artworks depict a variety of subjects ranging from narrative traditional camp life scenes to arctic animals and the spirit world. The exhibition includes a distinctive piece incorporating antler, beads, and caribou skin by Martha Ikiperiak Eekerkik of Arviat as well as wall hangings by renowned Baker Lake artists Jessie Oonark, Elizabeth Angrnaqquaq, and Marion Tuu’luq.


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