GRAND MARAIS, MINNESOTA - March 4, 2011 - Sivertson Gallery opens their 11th Annual Inuit Premiere in Grand Marais on Saturday, March 19th with two world renowned Inuit artists, David Ruben Piqtoukun and Kavavow Mannomee. “With the polar bear identified as the poster child of global warming there is a growing consciousness about the Arctic that has brought the beauty of it’s resources, creatures, arts and culture to the forefront,” says gallery owner, Jan Sivertson. “Both of these artists have experienced first hand the dramatic social, cultural, and environmental changes that have taken place in the Arctic in the last half century.” The opening weekend events at Sivertson Gallery are free and open to the public and the exhibit continues through the end of April. In addition, workshops taught by these master artists will be offered through the Grand Marais Art Colony and North House Folk School.
To escape the harsh realities of life on the arctic tundra, at the urging of the Canadian government Inuit people began leaving their traditional nomadic lifestyles to live in communities in the 1950’s. With few other economic opportunities, creating artwork was encouraged as one way for the Inuit to earn an income. Situated well above the tree line in the high arctic, Inuit artists had no access to traditional materials such as wood for sculpting or block printing. Forced to use local materials, soapstone was embraced by the innovative spirit of Canada’s indigenous people. In addition to carving sculptures, flat slabs of soapstone are used to create relief style block prints.
Master soapstone Sculptor David Ruben Piqtoukun (born in Paulatuk, NWT) lived the traditional migratory life with his family along the Mackenzie River Delta. At the age of 5 he was sent away to one of the infamous residential schools where he received “an education in forgetting” for the next 12 years. “I lost my language and Native Eskimo ways. Living in the south made my identity difficult to comprehend. I was lost between two worlds.” With original instruction from his brother, noted sculptor Abraham Apalark Anghik Ruben, he began to carve soapstone at the age of 22. “I began to explore my native roots, collecting stories from my travels home in Canada’s Western Arctic. I was fascinated by my own culture.” Nearly four decades later, Ruben’s work has been featured in many group and solo exhibitions across North America and Europe. In 1988 he was named to the sculptors Society of Canada. His work can be found in many public and private collections, including the National Gallery of Canada, parks and public spaces around Canada, as well as at Canadian embassies around the world.
“David Ruben’s work balances his concern for the loss of his culture and language with a profound optimism, rooted in the shamanic beliefs of his ancestors.” – Dr. George F. MacDonald, President and CEO of the Canadian Museum of Civilization Corporation.
An accomplished and precise printmaker, Kavavow Mannomee is one of the very few Inuit artists who is trained as a master printmaker at Kinngait Studios, the co-operative print shop in Cape Dorset. Since 1959 the co-op has produced an Annual Print Collection which is eagerly anticipated by collectors from around the world. Each year artists from the community submit drawings for consideration for the annual release. Images that will be made into prints are chosen by consensus and small editions are printed. Etching, lithography, and stencil methods are used in addition to the stone cut technique, which is unique to the Inuit artists of Cape Dorset. As a master printmaker, Mannomee is one of the rare Inuit artists who not only contributes imagery, but also cuts the images into the stone block and prints editions. His thematic concerns include depictions of Inuit legends and mythology, Arctic wildlife and an interest in some of the more contemporary aspects of Inuit life. Mannomee’s imagery nicely combines his naturalist’s eye with his graphic sensibilities. His work has been exhibited since 1988, in Canada, the United States, France, Belgium, and Germany
Workshops: For those wanting to explore Inuit art in depth, two workshops are being offered in conjunction with the Premiere; Ruben will be teaching soapstone carving through North House Folk School. In addition to first hand instruction, students will have the opportunity to work in the same stone as the master carver himself. For over a year, Ruben has been working on a monumental piece, setting aside smaller pieces of the material for students to work with. “I thought it might make the experience more meaningful,” says Ruben. He has taught workshops around the world, including the Ivory Coast, Russia, China, the US, Mexico and the Dominican Republic.
Likewise, Mannomee will teach a printmaking class at the Grand Marais Art Colony in which the stone cut and stencil techniques that are unique to Cape Dorset’s graphic artists will be explored. With stone cuts, a drawing is done on a smooth soapstone surface and the image is then carved in relief, cutting away the negative areas. The block is then inked and each print is hand pulled. In many cases a stencil would be cut to provide added color, texture, or dimension.
The Premiere continues through the end of April.
CALENDAR OF EVENTS
(Please note that scheduled times are subject to change. Contact or check website for updated information.)
Friday, March 18th
At North House Folk School:
8 pm Inuit Film Screening:
“Between Two Worlds – An Exhibition of Sculptures by David Ruben Piqtoukun” (2003 & 2008 Inuit Art Foundation in collaboration with Winnipeg Art Gallery & Canadian Museum of Civilization. 13:24 min) The works form this 1996 exhibition were the result of an innovative collaboration among artist, dealer, curator, and collectors. The resulting forceful and integrated body of sculpture explores the fall out from contact between the Inuit world and a dominant outside culture. The piece “Lost Spirits” represents the emptiness the Inuit feel, having lost their inner lives. Other works depict the “orphaned” culture, the despair caused by alcohol, the disorientation resulting from a world “turned upside down,” subjects rarely dealt with by Inuit sculptors. Though explicit, this is not aggressive art; Ruben’s social commentary is presented from a convincingly balanced perspective. (Inuit Art Quarterly, Vol. 11, no.4, Winter 1996)
Qallunaat: Why White People are Funny (2006, Mark Sandiford, Canada, 52 min)
Funny? What's so funny about white people, otherwise known as Qallunaat to the Inuit? Well, among other curious behaviors, Qallunaat ritualistically greet each other with inane salutations, repress natural bodily functions, complain a lot about being cold, and seem to want to dominate the world. This docucomedy is collaboration between filmmaker Mark Sandiford and Inuit writer and satirist, Zebedee Nungak. Zebedee is CEO and head researcher of the mythical Qallunaat Studies Institute (QSI). Filmmaker Mark Sandiford's extended time in the Arctic has resulted in a fresh and long overdue "study" of Qallunaat from the Inuit point of view. Not surprisingly, these "Qallunologists" find the ways of white culture a bit peculiar. Consider their odd dating habits, lame attempts at arctic exploration, their overbearing bureaucrats, need for Police, and curious obsession with owning property. Why White People Are Funny is a humbling portrait of what it must feel like to be the object of the white man's gaze. Fresh and original, this documentary has that rare ability to educate with wit.
Saturday, March 19th
At Sivertson Gallery:
1:00 – 4:00 pm Meet the artists
3:00 pm Artist Chat with printmaker Kavavow Mannomee
6:00 pm Artist Chat with sculptor David Ruben Piqtoukun
Workshops at North House Folk School:
March 16th, 17th and 18th “Romancing the Stone: An Introduction to Inuit Soapstone Carving”
March 20th and 21st “Speaking Through Sculpture”
Both workshops taught by master sculptor David Ruben Piqtoukun
For further information & tuition rates contact
North House Folk School
Workshops at Grand Marais Art Colony:
March 16th, 17th and 18th “Inuit Stone Cut Printmaking”
March 20th and 21st “Stencil Printmaking, the Inuit Way”
Both Courses taught by master printer Kavavow Mannomee
For further information & tuition rates contact
Grand Marais Art Colony
David Ruben Piqtoukun in his outdoor carving studio in Toronto, Canada.
“Owl Man/Woman” by David Ruben Piqtoukun, Brazilian soap stone w/inlaid eyes of African Spring Stone and Montanan Agate. “
For further information (including full biographies on artists) : www.sivertson.com
For general lodging information: www.grandmarais.com