national exhibit shows carvers' bold new visions
DORSET - More than two decades ago, Isaacie Etidloi had the habit
of watching his father skillfully transform blocks of rock into
loons outside their house in Cape Dorset. Then, against his dad's
wishes, seven-year-old Etidloi would grab some rock and tools and
aim to do the same. The rebellion was allowed, and Etidloi became
shortly after "watching, but not listening to" his father,
Etidloi found some advice he could follow, which he credits with
setting the course of his career, soon to be boosted by a cross-Canada
tour of his work.
advice came when an uncle looked over his work and said to do something
said you should do something that catches the eye," Etidloi,
now 31, recalled in an interview.
said his uncle's words steered him away from traditional animal
themes, made famous by his father's generation, and inspired him
to sculpt people - a decision that now lands him in the national
with the carvings of fellow artists from Nunavut and beyond, Etidloi's
work will travel through all major cities across Canada in a high-profile
exhibition organized by the National Gallery of Canada. The show,
which includes 25 stone carvings made since 1990, is billed as a
journey into the heart of contemporary Inuit art.
Lalonde, acting associate curator for the gallery's Inuit art collection,
sat down with Etidloi in Cape Dorset this month to iron out details
about how his carving of a drum dancing shaman will be displayed.
Lalonde said Etidloi's penchant for breaking with tradition made
him an ideal candidate for the exhibit.
show comes as part of the national gallery's mandate to show its
collection to the whole country, not just Ottawa, where the gallery
Inuit art is changing, Lalonde said, and it's the national gallery's
job to keep up with the trends. Advertisements for the tour suggest
the exhibit will show that "contemporary" no longer refers
to the art produced by Inuit after contact with Southerners. The
term will now refer to art made closer to the new millennium.
group ... caught people's attention because it's doing something
different," Lalonde said of the artists selected for the exhibit.
"It [their work] encourages others to follow their own path."
seeing a shift in subject matter, Lalonde said many Inuit carvers
now experiment with different media, going beyond soapstone with
works of limestone, silver, ebony or copper. Some were made by "serendipitous"
ways, like Oviloo Tunnillie's "Skier," which originally
had the full shape of a person skiing but accidently broke at the
waist. Intrigued by contrast of the raw, rough scar on top of the
smooth, shiny torso and legs, the artist sold the half-piece as
a whole, introducing a new look to Inuit sculpture, Lalonde said.
Sharky, another Cape Dorset artist showcased in the exhibit, said
the new look in Inuit art comes from access to new technology. The
33-year-old artist said his grandfather, who inspired him to start
carving, would only have access to manual tools, instead of the
electric drills and sanders used today.
technology, the change in Inuit art comes naturally, said Sharky,
who has carved out a name for himself by mixing subjects such as
human faces with the feet of seal.
do that because the art buyers, they want to see different things,"
he said. "I do it to make it more interesting."
the economic incentive, Sharky said, he'd be bored if he did the
same as everyone else.
with the other chosen sculptures, Sharky's carving "The Legend
of the Blind Boy" will be on the road with the exhibit for
about two years beginning September.