Among subjects, mediums and styles, the "dancing bear" is one of the most prolific subjects in Inuit art. The dancing bear is the most prevalent subject made by artists and is also one of the most challenging to achieve.
It is this delicate balance, the movement and grace that made the dancing bear one of the most recognized inuit art subjects internationally.
The Dancing bear exemplifies and attests to the true beauty and craftsmanship of Inuit art. It was originally inspired in the 1960's from the small Inuit community Cape Dorset, Nunavut. Its concept signifies the transformation between shaman and spirit helper; arctic animals adopting naturalistic or humorous human-like poses (e.g. dancing bears, and Sedna - the sea goddess),
Since its introduction, it is understood that the dancing bear carving requires a much elevated skill set by the artist. This is because the entire stone has to be balanced on one leg of the bear without toppling over. This balancing act in carving is not a project for the beginning carver. Today, it is one of the most sought after subjects in Inuit art.
One of the first artists who conceived the idea of dancing bear was the late Palta Sala. Although basic in form, his dancing bears were the foundation and origins of this enigmatic subject we see today.
The sculptures from this older generation not only have a basic upright, singular orientation, they are also characterized by a unified, tight composition and form. The works tend to be solid and uniformly stone, rather than airy sculptures, punctuated by areas of space. The works rely on the single stone mass with very little play on the positive/negative space around or within the sculpture.
Then their came Nuna Parr. He is 72 years old and is by far, the most famous Inuit artist worldwide. His punctuation and achievements consist of formalizing a dancing bear, but in a superfluidity in dynamic and movement. This mastery of balance and form is also conducted in the lieu of gardenesque mass. Nuna Parr's bears are known to be large, flamboyant and majestic. They are construed in such a way that they are always the centre stage of any space.
New artists from today's generation have often worked under Nuna's apprenticeship. Noah Kelly, Joannie Ragee, Ashevak Adla are all top artists in today's Inuit art scene. This is both at a national and international level.
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