Inuit Art Blog
Art is a barometer.
Through out human existence, the cultural artifacts left behind, have painted a picture of the history a culture which could easily have been lost if not for these treasures.
Inuit Art expresses the stories of Inuit life, past and present.
Inuit Art derives from the spirit of the Inuit people and their unique interpretation of life, which is deeply influenced by the harsh climate of the Arctic.
In past centuries, each day would be a struggle to survive.
Inuit Art is also a celebration of their ancestors and their extraordinary skills and resourcefulness which have allowed the modern Inuit to have existed for over 1000 years!
How did Inuit carvings begin?
The Canadian North is a vast region with only a handful of sparsely settled communities located throughout (basically the size of Australia with only 40,000 people).
As such, it is only natural for the people in each community to have their own versions and interpretations of where Inuit art began and why.
From my time living and working in the Arctic, I have come to understand from most Inuit people that carvings were made primarily for the purpose of children's toys.
Like everything the Inuit make, these toys were minimalist whose purpose was to comfort and amuse the children.
How did the Europeans meet the Inuit?
In the 1830's, the Hudson Bay company was establishing the fur trade in the Canadian Far North.
The European traders were fascinated with these toy carvings (to the amusement of the Inuit)
The fur traders would trade day-to-day items for these toy artifacts.
It was a good trade for both sides.
Do you struggle with the question, "What carvings SHOULD I have in my Inuit art collection?"
Like many collectors, you buy what you love,
BUT you have this nagging feeling that maybe you are missing something because you don't understand the subject or you don't have the $ or the space to expand your collection.
The title of this blog is, of course, "tongue in cheek" BUT I would like to pass on some pearls to you about collecting Inuit art.
But, before we design our fantasy Inuit art collection, let's set some ground rules.
First, money is no object.
Second, we can acquire any carving we want at the magic Coop.
Third, we have unlimited space to house our collection.
And fourth, you don't have to please anyone with your choice of carving except yourself. (No eye rolling, no smirks, no comments about price)
I did say this is a fantasy collection.
!. Choose at least one Signature piece from the Master Carvers.
Master Carvers are usually in their senior years having spent 30-40 years in their trade.
They have International acclaim and their carvings are exhibited in a National Art Gallery (WAG, AGO, National Art Gallery of Canada).
Master Carvers are often recognized by the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts (RCA)
2. Recognize that as the Master Carvers age, their physical conditions limit their productivity.
Carving stone is a difficult occupation that is detrimental to the artist's health.
Chronic lung disease, severe arthritis, accidental death transporting stone: the list is long.
Many of the current Master carvers now produce only one or two carvings a year.
3. When a Master Carver "retires" suddenly everyone is trying to purchase any remaining inventory from that carver.
Once those carvings are gone from the Inuit art Galleries, the carvings become very difficult to acquire.
Now, you will have to search the Auction houses. Here, you are bidding against many collectors and there is usually a buyers fee of around 20%. Translation: you pay 20% of your purchase price to the Auction house to offset their expenses.
4. Take home message
If your dream Master Carver sculpture suddenly appears, don't procrastinate. Make it yours!
Next month, get to know the Signature Carvings of the Master Carvers.
I have many clients who request specific colours when they are choosing a carving.
"I want a pure white bear" or "I must have a flawless black owl".
Colour has long been understood to be something which appeals greatly to our visual senses. Colour affects our emotions. It can make us feel excited or mellow, happy or sad.
Colour psychology isn't a one size fits all concept. Our age, gender and culture can also affect how we relate to colour.
Black is the colour of sophistication and always has a classic feel to it.
Pure black stone finished with a glossy mirror finish has the ability to magnify the lines of a carving. The outline of the sculpture becomes the star of the show as shown by this stunning Tim Pee Walking Bear.
Even more exciting, is how the shadows create a black on black effect which draw out the richness of the black colour and creates mystery as well.
I have come to believe that many clients associate the colour black with "traditional" Inuit carvings.
The older carvings from the 50s, 60s and 70s were perhaps not as colourful as more contemporary pieces.
These clients choose black because they associate it with history and tradition and want their collections to be authentic.
26" Perfection in Black Toonoo Sharkey
When it comes to contemporary Inuit artists, I think you would agree that Toonoo Sharkey is the master of pure black sculptures.
This iconic Sharkey raptor is sophisticated, mysterious and lush; all the attributes of the colour black.
But the real star of this piece may not be the black stone.
It takes a glorious apple green inlaid eye to offset the tendency of the completely black stone to be predictable.
As in life, it often takes an unexpected twist (like an eye-popping colour) to complete the perfect sculpture.
What is your favourite colour?
Are you confused?
When we hear the word "modern", we think about new, trendy and fashionable things in the world.
"Modern Art" is simply the style and philosophy of art produced during the 1890-1960 era.
Modern art was the creative world's response to ideas and materials produced for the first time by the technological advances of the industrial age.
Actually, we should describe Inuit art from the 1970s and forward as "Contemporary Art" and not "Modern Art".
Contemporary Art is the art of today. The artists are generally alive.
Modern and contemporary art are of two different time periods. Period!
However, there are many different styles in modern art. You may know a few terms like Impressionism and Cubism and Abstract Expressionism.
We won't go into each modern art style right now but there are certain principles that define modernist art.
First, there is a rejection of history and conservative values (this means realistic depiction of subjects is a no no).
Second, modernist art loves innovation and experimentation with form (this refers to the shapes, colours and lines that make up the work). There is a tendency toward abstraction. This means nothing looks realistic.
This Kelly Etidloie Soft Moss Green Muskox is a prime example. After all, have you ever seen a muskox with holes in its coat and a snub nose?!
Also, Napachie has carved using Abstract Expressionism.
Abstract artists, like Pablo Picasso rejected the idea that art had to rely on forms that resembled objects or things. Realism was abandoned. Abstraction was in.
Ashoona's bear has the form of a bear but its details are more suggested and exaggerated. This is not a realistic depiction of a bear. It is an abstraction of a bear.
Just remember .... Contemporary Inuit art is art carved after 1970.
Modern art refers to a time period when this art was produced 1890s to 1960s.
Modernist Inuit art follows three principles that are the foundations of Modern art.
Autumn is my favourite season...and my favourite holiday is Christmas.
I love preparing the Gallery for the holidays and that means making sure the shelves are well stocked and ready for my clients.
Unlike many retailers this year, Inuitsculptures.com has NO supply chain issues.
All the Inuit carvings you see on our Inuitsculptures.com website are located in our Bricks and Mortar Gallery.
If you are going to be in the Montreal area, we invite you to make the short trip to Hudson and meet our spirited carvings.
If you are an online art lover, rest assured that all the carvings are in stock.
What you see is what you get! Literally. You will never be disappointed (unless someone beats you to that perfect carving!)
We continue to acquire the most magnificent sculptures for our loyal cliental.
Our mandate is to keep you happy and proud.
Our standards are high. Our gallery showcases the largest number of inspirational and beautiful Inuit carvings in the world.
We provide our clients with choice.
As for shipping, we continue to securely ship our sculptures worldwide with ease and speed.
As always, at Christmas we strongly suggest you consider shopping early in order to avoid the predictable busy holiday season for the Postal and Courier services.
I'm excited for Christmas to arrive.
Let's celebrate this holiday season together and share in all the love and tradition.
What did you miss the first, second or even third time you explored the gallery?
Need a bit of help?
Every tour needs a tour guide. Here we go.....
Etelu Ashevak's 16" Slender Dancing Bear
So many Dancing bears ...... one foot, two feet, sometimes four!
Twirling, jabbing, praying, diving, swirling.
How do you choose?
Each Dancing bear has its own beauty.
Etelu's bear is moderately large, has the most exquisite dark stone and is well priced for its size. Always a bonus!
What I love .......!
His ample muscular bear body BUT Etelu tapers the bear into a slender neck and head. The slimmer face focuses our attention on the meticulously carved nose, mouth and ears.
I would love to see Etelu carve only a bear head.
I believe it would be stunning.
Pits Qimirpik 6" Rapping and Dancing Hare
Even though everyone loves a bunny, Arctic hare sculptures are not as common as you would think.
Many of the hares are carved by Pits or Johnny Lee Judea.
What I love .......!
This is a rapping, hip hopping HARE!!
This carving is showing the South, that Inuit life isn't about igloos and dog sleds anymore.
Inuit youth love hip hop and rap.
They are hooked into the internet with streaming services and Netflix.
Pits' modern Arctic hare doesn't just sit on its haunches and wiggle its nose to while away the time.
Pits' modern Arctic hare is under the spell of hip hop; a dance originally inspired by African dancing. His exuberance is contagious.
Can't you hear the music?
And of course, the modern Arctic hare isn't a mundane single colour!
Pits' has covered his hare in torquoise and gold and inky black colours.
Irene Tiktalaaq 53' x 40" Felted Luxury
It seems to me that Inuit textile artisans do not receive the attention they deserve.
Did you know that Irene Tiktalaaq (Baker's Lake, NU) is a superstar among Canada's Inuit artists? One of her majestic pieces hangs in Canada House in London, England. She has been commissioned by museums, art galleries and governments around the world to create her tapestries and soft textile art pieces.
What I love ...........!
This tapestry is made from a luxury quality felt (wool fibres that are matted, condensed and pressed together).
This is not the felt you used for school projects!
The felt is thick, and soft and cool to the touch. It is sensual like velvet.
The colours are rich.
The embroidery work impeccable.
Irene's tapestry is both a beautiful piece of soft art and an homage to one of Canada's finest Inuit artists.
Every day I enjoy the serenity and peace that surrounds this tapestry as it hangs proudly in our gallery.
Jimmy Iqaluq is the first Inuit carver I met (2007) when I lived in the Arctic. I was a bush pilot for Air Inuit and during an Arctic blizzard in Sanikiluaq, my airplane was snowed in and grounded for a week.
In the hotel lobby, I noticed an incredible loon carving. I was pointed toward the home of Jimmy Iqaluq. I walked over and knocked on his door. He was gracious and humble. He and his wife knew very little English but the three of us managed to understand each other.
Eventually I purchased my very first Inuit carving from Jimmy in anticipation of one day starting my own Inuit art gallery. Jimmy's loons have become his signature piece.
Jimmy and I have been friends for over 16 years. I used Jimmy's loon as my logo in honour of our relationship. Jimmy is now one of Canada's top Master Carvers.
I have sold many Jimmy loons over the past 13 years. Each one is exquisite and awe inspiring. Our current Jimmy loon I believe is perhaps his best piece. Believe me when I say, each of his loons, indeed, each of his carvings are majestic and unforgettable.
One of his signature features is the inlaid red eye. He uses a red stone which he finds near his summer cottage. You will see that the walrus and the Loon we currently have in the gallery, have red eyes.
Jimmy deserves all his awards and accolades. He has international presence and is in the Elite level of Canada's Master carvers. I still call Jimmy and he sends his stunning pieces to me directly. He is still Jimmy from Sanikiluaq. Modest and extremely talented.
No Inuit art collection is complete without a Jimmy Iqaluq carving.
The Habs are in the Stanley Cup finals for the first time in 28 years!
The Montreal Canadiens are Canada's most storied franchise, chasing the world's most recognized sports trophy, playing Canada's national game.
The Habs have been around since 1909, winning 24 Stanley Cups.
Hockey is part of the Canadian psyche.
Quebec, in particular, obsesses over the Canadiens.
BUT are you aware that the people of Nunavut are also "rabid" Habs fans?
When my friend and renowned carver Jimmy Iqaluq realized I was a life long Habs fan, he carved this charming Habs polar bear for me as a surprise.
Fact: Jordin Toonoo was the first Inuk to play in the NHL.
Fact: Since 2005, Project North has ventured to the most remote Inuit communities handing out over $1 million in hockey equipment to impassioned Inuit youth eager to play organized hockey.
Fact: The Habs' goalie Carey Price was regularly flown to Williams Lake, BC by his dad Barney Toonoo so he could play in organized hockey. Barney is an Inuk from Nunavut.
Sports are so frequently the glue that binds.
Hockey, especially the Montreal Canadiens, is Canada's pride and passion.
GO HABS GO !!!
In 2018, I came across an image of an exquisite small caribou no more than 3" tall. I was enchanted by this perfect small piece and was determined to meet the artist. When I met Derrald Taylor, I was taken with his commitment to his craft.
Derrald has carved some of the most ambitious carvings I have ever seen. His imagination and skill is unique and inspirational. There are several artists who excite my Curator spirit. Derrald Taylor is one of those artists. I rip open the boxes that contain his carvings because I know that I am about to encounter both genius and beauty.
His Orcas are the best in the industry! His sense of motion and dynamics are exceptional and a testament to his talent. His Orcas seem to be frozen in time at the peak of their breech or in a protective posture as in these two Mother and Calf sculptures.
The subject of a mother and child is a favourite amongst my clients. Taylor is able to release the emotion of a mother's protective love for her child from these carvings. Derrald's Orcas do not last long in the gallery.
Close behind the Orcas, is a favourite of mine, the narwhal. This piece is so perfect and so exquisite that someday it could easily be found in an Art Museum.
The colour of this marine mammal is a gorgeous glossy black that reflects light and outlines every detail of the narwhal. The curvature of the body is long and sleek but still muscular.
And finally, that magnificent tusk! Taylor has scalloped the edges of the tusk which is not typically seen in Inuit art but is a signature move of Derrald.
This narwhal is truly a Masterpiece!
And finally, Derrald's Caribou. This caribou has a spirit that is bold and regal. His antlers are fierce; they are meant to maim.
This majestic beast is striding with purpose. The deep pumpkin colour of the stone is surprising and mesmerizing.
Caribous are a difficult subject to carve because the lower legs are narrow and fragile and prone to breaking during the carving process. It is a testament to Taylor's skill and determination to take on the challenge of a caribou and also a caribou that is somewhat diminutive and much harder to carve.
I am a huge fan of Derrald Taylor.
Guaranteed, in a few short years, he will be one of Canada's top Master Carvers.
Do you recognize this carving?
Yes! This is Pauta Saila's famous Dancing Bear (Cape Dorset, 1964).
It currently resides in the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
This is THE Bear that started the world's fascination with the Dancing Bear carving style.
This is the most prolific subject in Inuit art; bears that can stand on one, two, three or all four paws!
The artist who carves a Dancing bear must be extremely skilled, experienced and talented.
It is thought that the Dancing Bear originated in Cape Dorset, (Baffin Island) Nunavut. The style of the carving is different in each region of the Arctic. The Cape Dorset esthetic depicts the animal subjects as being heroic but also humorous. The animals are thought to be able to perform human feats, like lifting up a foot to dance or kick.
Cape Dorset carvers are innovative and unconventional.
Every Dancing bear has its own charm. Like snowflakes, no two are alike.
Ottokie Samayualie's 14" Dancing/Diving bear is the most beautiful 4 way bear that I have seen in some time.
The jet black stone is polished to a mirror finish that accents every ripple of the bears body. The bear is the poster child for the perfect bear!
Powerful, muscular, large paws, strong angular face with exquisitely positioned ears.
And this 4 way Bear can balance on any of its 4 paws!
Can you appreciate the skill and talent required of an artist to be able to achieve what is essentially an engineering miracle? I have so much admiration for Ottokie.
Contrast Ottokie's heroic bear with Sakkasie Ragee's 4 way bears.
These bears are humorous and entertaining.
In their horizontal positions, they look like Olympic gymnasts performing floor routines.
These bears are athletes AND dancers AND clowns. The apple green stone is hard to ignore with its sunny electric neon hue.
Dancing bears.....they are the celebrities of the Inuit bear world.
They are beloved and their carvers are respected and admired for their skill and perseverance.
We have many charming and spectacular Dancing bears in our gallery collection.
Of all the carvings, they are the ones with the happiest personalities.