Markoosie Papigatook (1976) is one of my favourite artists for small Dancing bears.
His creatures have poise, humour and the right amount of irony.
Markoosie is from Cape Dorset. His mother and maternal grandparents were successful carvers. He started carving as a teenager and is largely self taught. His bears are easy to recognize. Each bear is a “character” with its whimsical spirit and joie de vivre.
When I have a Markoosie bear in the gallery, I place it so I can look at it and absorb its innocent joy. You can’t have a bad day when a Markoosie bear is in the room.
For one so small, these sculptures are exquisitely carved. The proportions are childlike. The body is short and a bit chubby. The head is large with round features just like a child’s body. But don’t be fooled. These dancing bears are Olympic athletes.
Markoosie overextends the upper spine and head into near impossible positions. Then he directs his charges to dance; to whirl and spin with wild abandon all the while maintaining their balance. I am mesmerized by these little bears because for a brief moment they invite us to shed our inhibitions and savour the joy of life.
Hip, modern, infectious in spirit; Markoosie Papigatook’s Dancing bears are perpetually entertaining.