The -miut exhibit from a non-artsy perspective

by | Feb 10, 2024 | Campus, Creative, Culture, Review | 1 comment

I went to the Mitchell Art Gallery to check out the new -miut exhibition, which features artwork from 5 Inuit artists. I like art, but I’m not an artsy person. Some creations, mostly paintings, leave me confused – I can’t interpret the meaning behind paintings, so I need to know the reasons for every choice an artist makes so I can understand one. But what I do enjoy is learning about others’ cultures, and one way to do that is through art. 

Having never visited an art gallery before, I expected the walls to be lined with artwork and the floor to be covered with glass cases with little space to walk around, much like a store. It wasn’t – it was very spacious and felt pretty empty with so few artwork/ creations. With no music playing in the background, I also found it eerily silent. So I didn’t go in feeling wowed; the overall vibe disappointed me. But after talking to someone who visited the Alberta Art Gallery and doing my own research, I learned that’s just how art galleries are supposed to be: space to walk around so you won’t bump into things and no noise so you can contemplate. 

However, my disappointment faded after when I focused on the artwork instead of the environment. There were a number of paintings, photos, textiles, 3D works, jewellery, and felting. Here is a list of the artists and their work:

Alberta Rose Williams/Ingniq

Ingniq is a Calgary-based artist. Her Hanging Whale Pieces are the first things you see when entering the gallery. The photos are of her grandfather and step-grandmother harvesting whales. What captured me about these photos is that the subjects have been digitally removed. “They have been digitally removed to denote the absence of that connection to family, culture, and traditional food sources I felt growing up in Southern Alberta,” Ingniq states on her website. “The structure that the prints are draped over is made from salvaged wood and mimics the structure that the whale meat hangs over in the third image. Much in the way that the fat would sustain my ancestors, art sustains me.”

Sarah Whalen-Lunn

Whalen-Lunn is an Inupiaq Inuit from Alaska who recently moved to Calgary about a year ago. As well as -miut, her artwork is also featured in shows at the Anchorage Museum and the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe. Even cooler, she did most of the artwork for the new HBO series True Detective: Night Country. 

“I don’t really get inspiration as much as visions that I then have to figure out how to bring to fruition,” Whalen-Lunn said when I asked about her inspiration for her artwork. “As I work on a piece it will often inform me of what it wants to be or what it wants to say through the process of creating it.” 

Among the most intriguing artworks by Whalen-Lunn was Mouthful of Fish, an oil painting of a woman with red fish drawn over her. “When I was younger I was teased by being called a fish eater,” Whalen-Lunn said. “Fish play an important role in a lot of my work; I see our foods as strength for our souls.”

Another art piece that captured my attention was Inua, a felt raven with the face of a woman in the middle. “Inua is the Inupiaq word for ‘spirit’ — the spirit that is held within everything. In most of my work I try to express our connection as Inuit to the spirit of everything around us and what ties us back to the land and our kin.”

Astinak Bishop

Atsinak Bishop is from Iqaluit, Nvt. Her all-time favourite hobbies are beading, sewing, and cooking/baking. What caught my eye from her works was a stylish Silapaaq, a traditional Inuit pullover. “I started making silapaaq when my daughter asked me to make one,” she says. “A lot of performers wear them and [they are] also worn on special occasions.”

When I asked her about her inspiration and reason for a three-tier Inuit necklace also featured in the gallery, she told me she simply “likes nice things.” “It’s just what I like to do, to make and create things I and others like,” she added. For the first time, I realized some artists are exactly like me when writing a story: they don’t have a solid reason for every choice they make, just like I don’t use symbolism for every object – they simply do it.

Yvonne Moorhouse

Moorhouse told RDNews Now. Unfortunately, we did not get a chance to talk.I would have liked to know more about her series of linocut prints on paper towels, called Utqiaġvic – why did she print the same scene on nine paper towels and have them coloured differently? Or maybe, like Bishop, she didn’t have a solid reason for doing it. The only thing I figured out is that it seems to be named after the Alaskan city ‘Utqiagvik’.

Kablusiak

Kablusiak is an Inuvialuk artist from Yellowknife who was raised in Edmonton and is currently based in Calgary.. According to the Inuit Art Foundation, they studied at both MacEwan University and ACAD. The exhibit features two felt pieces from them: Going to the Grocery Store, depicting two women shopping, and a series of cute felt emojis. 

Overall, I was glad I visited the -miut exhibition. I learned what a gallery is supposed to be like and got to see some interesting creations. Hearing the reasons behind (some of) the artists’ choices made me appreciate their art more. It’s unfortunate that I might never learn the reasons behind some of the other art featured – I suppose they’ll leave me puzzled forever.


Photo credits to Zaneb Alzubaidi

Zaneb Alzubaidi

The Griff

1 Comment

  1. K

    Great work on the article!

    Reply

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