The Art of the North – V

All Things Great and Small

Amongst the 1000 treasures at the now closed Museum of Inuit Art were objects both great and small.

The small included some of the loveliest miniature carvings I’ve seen anywhere. And like miniatures in museums all over the world they reflected a moment frozen in time of the world surrounding the carver. Some went back to the late 1800s with the more recent being created in this century. Most were in ivory – from walrus tusk – with the addition in some cases of stone or other natural materials found in the area. They came from varied regions across the North – Mittimatalik (Pond Inlet), Northern Labrador and Kugaaruk (Pelly Bay). The earlier examples are the work of anonymous artisans carving scraps of tusk often into rough approximations of what they saw around them. However the highlight was a miniature landscape created by one of the great Inuit miniaturists, the late Emily Iluitok. (A click on the link will lead to some other stunning examples of this artist’s works)


All artists anonymous

Mittimatalik (Pond Inlet)
Seated Woman (left front) – c1920

Men – seated and standing c1880-1920
Ivory and pigment

Igloo – unattributed
Ivory and pigment



Artist and Region unidentified
Bear Heads– c 1950
Ivory, stone, pigment


Emily Iluitok (1943-2012)
Kugaaruk (Pelly Bay)
Winter Scene
Ivory, stone, leather, hide, sinew
(Again a left click will enlargen the photos for a closer look.)

Prior to closing it’s door on May 30 the Museum hosted one final exhibition – the works of Abraham Anghik Ruben. Ruben is an artist whose concepts are as large as Emily Iluitok’s are small and who’s medium comes from beyond the Arctic. But if he carves largely in stones from as far afield as Brazil and Portugal his subjects remain of the North. But Ruben goes beyond the regions of Canada to include many Northern cultures. As well as his own heritage he looks to the legends and gods of the Icelandic  countries to inspire his monumental works.

The entrance to the MIA was flanked by two of his sculptures – one inspired by an ancient legend and the other by recent history.

Beowulf is recognized as the first known record of English story telling and its roots are in the stories of the Anglo-Saxon invaders from the North. Ruben captures the hero helmeted for battle with Grendel, the first of the three monsters he faces in the saga.

Abraham Anghik Ruben (b. 1951)
Beowulf – 2013
Brazilian soapstone, Portugese Alabaster
(Again a left click will take you to a slideshow of larger pictures.)

Aside from the complexity of his pieces – in line and symbolisim – the sheer size and, I’m sure weight, of his pieces are awesome.  Setting them in place is a major chore as demonstrated in this slideshow.

Abraham Anghik Ruben (b. 1951)
New World Saga

Unfortunately this was the last exhibition to be hosted by the Museum of Inuit Art.  The collection will either go into storage or be broken up and perhaps leave Canada.  It is difficult to imagine any Canadian arts institute  in today’s climate having the budget to acquire or display it properly.  A sad commentary.


On this day in 1836: The formation of the London Working Men’s Association gives rise to the Chartist Movement.

The Art of the North – III

This beautiful stone carving by Pootoogook Jaw was in a corner waiting to be set up to be seen to better advantage so I was unable to get a complete picture. Most Inuit carvings have to be seen from all angles to get the full effect.  (A left click will bring you to a slide show of Hunter.)


A master carver, Pootoogook Jaw is second of four sons who have carried on the family tradition, begun by their father Joe Jaw, of sculpting the stone of the North to capture the story of the Inuit.   As with many Inuit artists he learned his craft and the stories of his people as a child watching his father and mother Mialia, also a respected carver, at work. And as with many sculptors the type of stone he works in will often dictate the style of the carving; here the lines are simple and uncomplicated.

The caption on the description of this piece listed Jaws’ community as Kinngniat however it is actually Kinngiat (Cape Dorset) or High Moutain in Inuktitut.  Kinngiat is reputed to be the most artistic community in Canada – over 22% of the population are involved in the arts as painters, print makers and carvers.

This is one of the 1000 works in the MIA collection who’s fate is currently unknown.  Hopefully another museum will acquire it and put it on display.

On this day in 1935:  One thousand unemployed Canadian workers board freight cars in Vancouver, British Columbia, beginning a protest trek to Ottawa.