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Culture Days Spotlight: Christa Ouimet

9 Sep

Founded in 2009, Culture Days is a non-profit organization dedicated to building a national network of cultural connections devoted to providing Canadians with opportunities to participate in, and appreciate, all forms of arts and culture. MIA joins this collaborative initiative with our 3rd annual Inuit Art Identification Clinic. Members of the public are invited to bring in a piece of Inuit art from their personal collection to have it verbally appraised by a panel of experts. 


This year we are pleased to have Christa Ouimet return to our all-star panel of Inuit art specialists. Christa has been a panelist every year since our inaugural event in 2013.  Christa is an integral part of Katilivik  –  an indispensable resource for staff at MIA.  Check it out next time you are looking to identify an artist – you can search by name, community, disc number, or even syllabics!

 

Christa Ouimet - updated photo

Christa’s Biography

As Managing Director of Waddington’s Inuit art Department and Fine Art Specialist, Christa’s extensive knowledge and experience has earned her reputation as one of the world’s leading experts in Inuit Art.  Her 15 years in the Canadian art auction industry has culminated in the handling of over $2 million of Inuit art a year.  In addition to auction sales and appraisal consultation, Christa provides an educational service through a free web based platform including identifying artists, dating sculptures, evaluating and providing biographical information.  2003 saw Christa’s first major contribution to Waddington’s when she added a spring auction in addition to the annual fall auction of Inuit Art, at the same time she was able to pursue her desire to promote Inuit works on paper as the sole focus of her inaugural spring catalogue.  Waddington’s spring Inuit Art auction continues to be an anticipated event and a fixture in the Waddington’s auction calendar.  In 2007 Christa spearheaded Waddington’s online auctions offering an additional selection of Inuit art every month.  Online auctions are now a successful addition to all of Waddington’s specialties.  Christa has developed partnerships for promotional events in correspondence with Waddington’s biannual Inuit art auctions with esteemed organizations such as, Adventure Canada, McMichael Canadian Art Collection and BirdLife International.  Christa enjoys being a regular panelist in the Museum of Inuit art’s (MIA) annual appraisal clinic.

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Get Up Close and Personal: Please DO Touch!

21 Aug

Over the past few weeks, Serena -the museum’s Summer YCW work intern, has been developing more interactive programming inside the museum. After brainstorming, researching, testing and training volunteers she was able to launch Get Up Close and Personal to share art works directly with museum visitors. Read about her experience creating the new program below.


Keeping museum pieces secure and safe from harm is a priority at any museum or art gallery. No museum is complete without a large sign or two saying “PLEASE DO NOT TOUCH”. However, if you’ve been to MIA in the last couple of months on a Thursday afternoon, you may have had the chance to participate in our new Get Up Close and Personal sessions.

These interactive sessions offer visitors the unique opportunity to touch objects from the MIA Educational Collection. Pieces in our Educational Collection are meant to be handled, so visitors can feel free to pick them up and learn more about the texture and material of each object.

I’ve been running these weekly Get Up Close and Personal sessions since July, and the results have been overwhelmingly positive so far. Visitors enjoy engaging in this tactile experience and trying to guess what material each piece is made of based on its texture.

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Serena is all set to go for ‘Get Up Close and Personal’. You can join a session every Thursday from 1-2 PM in the museum.

It’s quite interesting to see how visual appreciation of the works in the museum translates to visitors’ tactile experiences – I often ask visitors to feel the porous texture of the antler doll in the collection and to guess what material it is made of. The most common answers are “bone” and “wood”, so most visitors are surprised to learn that the doll is made of antler, which caribou shed every year.

It has been especially rewarding to see how visitors make connections between what they have already seen in the museum and what they are holding in their hands. Once visitors find out that the carved ivory piece is a walrus tusk, many of them mention the narwhal tusk and the small ivory sculptures in the historical case at the museum.

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Pieces from the museum’s Educational Collection that reflect the different types of materials and textures you can find in art produced by Inuit.

I’ve even encountered visitors who are familiar with Inuit art and have recognized different types of stone, pointing to Pudliak Shaa’s “Dancing Goose” and saying, “is that serpentine?”

These interactions with visitors are part of what makes working at MIA so fulfilling. I love contributing to visitor learning and watching visitors discover more about Inuit art. If you’d like to see (and touch) these objects for yourself, be sure to drop by the museum on Thursdays from 1-2 PM!

Posted by Serena Y., MIA’s Community Engagement Officer

Stories by the Qulliq

29 Dec
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A qulliq lamp burning whale blubber to keep the iglu warm. Photo by Brendan Griebel, 2012.

This past weekend the museum hosted “Stories by the Qulliq” where a series a of children’s stories illustrated several popular Inuit legends and myths. But what exactly is a qulliq?

Qulliq or Kudlik (ᖁᓪᓕᖅ) is the traditional oil lamp used by Inuit. Typically carved from stone, it takes a rounded shape with a depression at the top to hold the seal oil used as fuel. Prior to electricity and hydro becoming available in the Arctic this lamp acted as the only source of light and heat for Inuit. During the periods of perpetual winter darkness, the qulliq would have burned almost continuously inside the house. It also doubled as a stove.

Tending to the qulliq was commonly a woman’s job and was truly an art in itself. Cubes of blubber were placed on the lamp’s concave surface. A blubber pounder was used to crush the blubber, pressing out the precious oil it contained. The lamp wick, made from moss or cotton grass, was soaked in this oil and arranged on a line along the edge of the lamp. Prior to Inuit having access to matches, they would use a bow drill or two flint stones to create a spark to ignite the lamp. Once the lamp was lit, it required constant attention and trimming to ensure that the flames were the right height, that it wasn’t producing too much smoke, and that it wouldn’t go out.

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This qulliq is from the museums Educational Collection so visitors can get up close and see one in person.

While visitors listened to the tiny tale of the Inugarulligaarjuit in “Ava and the Little Folk” or sat in suspense during “The Spirit of the Sea” our very own qulliq was on display. Our collection also holds contemporary interpretations of the lamp. Notice anything different?

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“Fire Spirits Rising” (2008) by David Ruben Piqtoukun (1951 – ) Paulatuk, stone, charcoal

This piece by David Ruben Piqtoukun, is now on display inside the museum. You can find it in our Abstract case where you can learn more about the Follow You Art program.

Posted by: Brittany Holliss, MIA’s Digital Assets Coordinator

‘Nuliajuk’ Comes to MIA

20 Nov
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MIA Collections Manager Lauren Williams receives a wall hanging from Jacob Keanik, President/Chair of the Gjoa Haven Heritage Society

Last week the museum had a group of special guests visit the museum. And they came a loooong way for a tour!

Despite a few flight delays and a battle through Toronto traffic, Obrian Kydd from the Nunavut Economic Developers Association and Jacob Keanik, the President/Chair of the Nattilik Heritage Society  made the trip from Uqsuqtuuq (Gjoa Haven) to MIA as one of their Toronto stops.

Touring through the museum exhibitions, MIA staff introduced our ‘Follow Your Art’  program – used to help identify the different styles seen in Inuit Art-  and of course we wanted to showcase all the unique and talented artists whose works are represented in the museum. It was such a real thrill to see Obrian and Jacob recognize pieces their friends had made and hear some of the stories behind the sculptures.

After an exciting brain storming session about future programming and a good chuckle about the Franklin Expedition discovery/the importance of oral history MIA staff were speechless when we were presented with a beautiful wall hanging made by Helen Kaloon!

Helen Wallhanging

“Nuliayok” (2013) by Helen Kaloon (1959- ) Uqsuqtuuq (Gjoa Haven), duffle and embroidery thread, MIA Collection.

This duffle wall hanging shows a scene from the story of Nuliajuk, who many of our visitors may also know as ‘Sedna’. Although there are different variations to the story, the main elements are consistent across story tellers and Nuliajuk is always credited as being the creator of the sea-life found in the Arctic. Depending on who is telling the story, some people will describe how Nuliajuk tried to flee her husband by clinging to the side of  her father’s boat during a rescue attempt while another version describes Nuliajuk swimming into the Arctic ocean in an attempt to catch up to her parents who have abandoned her. In both accounts, to release Nuliajuk from the boat her fingers are cut off. Unable to hold onto the boat any longer,  she sinks into the ocean where her severed fingers transform into the sea animals who now inhabit the Arctic ocean.

We hope Helen’s ‘Nuliajuk’ wall hanging likes her view of Lake Ontario, we’ll certainly enjoy having her as an artist ambassador for the Kitikmeot Region here at the museum.

– Posted by: Brittany Holliss, MIA’s Digital Assets Coordinator

“Getting” Art with Alysa

14 May

More musings from the MIA intern coming at ya!

When I first came into the museum studies program I thought that I would be surrounded by students who loved art as much I do. I had this vision of people gathered together at an exhibition opening, talking about such-and-such an artist and their brilliant project -which was sure to change the world.

In reality though…not so much.

Turns out I’ve got a bit of an art history bias and sort of forgot about the other types of museums out there. Like the natural history or science museums.

Oopsies!

Not to give my fellow students a bad rap. Networking with archaeologists and scientists has some pretty cool benefits. And there are a lot of people out there who either haven’t given art the time of day, or walked away from it rather quickly because they “didn’t get it”. There are even times where I myself struggle to understand a theory or philosophy an artist is trying to address in their work.

But thank goodness for the internet! Google searches, podcasts, and videos have certainly answered a lot of questions I’ve had about what the heck some artists are doing. And joining that resource list is a member of our MIA team, Educational Coordinator Alysa Procida!

 

Recently she was asked by Lifestyle Goddess to talk about some of the pieces in the MIA collection. In the short segments, Alysa quickly covers portions of an artist’s biography in order to give the viewer context but without over burdening them with lots of detail or complicated terminology.

I’ll admit that before starting my internship here at MIA, I had never heard of Mattiusi Iyaituk before. But after watching Alysa’s video, and understanding his style and motivations I’ve been able to walk around the MIA’s collection pointing out his sculptures without referencing any labels. Success!!!

Alysa has also discussed the work of Bart Hanna  and Abraham Anghik Ruben in two other videos, which I hope you’ll enjoy as much as I have. And hopefully they’ll make you feel like you’ve finally arrived at the “art getters” club.

posted by: Brittany Holliss, MIA’s Educational Assistant

Hidden Joys of Inuit Dolls

11 Sep

You may know that the museum currently has a special exhibition on about Inuit dolls. Recently, the museum photographed the works on display and as we moved through the objects, I began noticing things about the pieces that even I had never seen before (and I have spent a lot of time looking at some of these dolls).

Two dolls in particular stood out among the rest for their hidden surprises. The first is doll from Happy Valley-goose Bay in Nunatsiavut (a land claim area in Labrador). As you might expect, fabric is a finite resource in the Arctic which has to be imported. Sometimes, artists have to make-do with what they have. Whether this fabric choice was a result of a desire to use up some fabric scraps or an intentional choice, it brought a smile to my face when I noticed the pattern used for the pants, which are barely visible during usual circumstances:

"Hunter" (2006) by an unidentified artist, Happy Valley-Goose Bay (Nunatsiavut), leather, stone, fabric, duffel, fur, MIA Collection; The doll as normally displayed...

Hidden underneath are pants made out of fabric with hockey playing frogs!

The second doll is what is known as a packing doll. This style of doll originated in Talurjuak (formerly known as Taloyoak/Spence Bay) in an effort to bring money into the community. These dolls come in a variety of forms, ranging from human to animal, that all wear traditional amauti and have a baby “packed” into their hoods. Oftentimes, the babies stay tucked into the amauti, but when you take them out there are occasional surprises.

"Sedna" (c. 2000s) by an unidentified artist (Talurjuak), Duffel, embroidery thread, felt, MIA Collection

Her baby is sticking its tongue out and has a belly button!

I hope these surprising details made you smile – I know I did. It really does just go to show that careful inspection of objects can produce insightful, new and sometimes just plain fun details that help tell the object’s story and make you look at them just a little differently.

Later this week, I’ll be telling the story of a different set of dolls in the exhibition – and this is one that you definitely won’t want to miss.

– Posted by: Alysa Procida, MIA’s Educational Coordinator

Objects That Tell A Story: “Spirit” by Karoo Ashevak

11 Apr

One of the best things about museums is that they allow all of us to learn directly from objects. I believe every object can tell a story and want to profile some of the most interesting here, to share these stories with you. To inaugurate this series, I chose one of the most incredible objects we have (and a consistent visitor and staff favorite): “Spirit” (c.1970) by Karoo Ashevak. You may recognize it as our avatar on this blog, our Twitter, Flickr and Facebook – that’s how much we love this piece! Looking at this piece can tell us a lot about the artist, his community, the material used and many, many more things. I just want to touch on a few of them now.

Karoo Ashevak, "Spirit" c. 1970, Sprott/MIA Collection (front view)

Karoo Ashevak, "Spirit" c. 1970, Sprott/MIA Collection (back view)

Who is Karoo Ashevak? Karoo Ashevak (1940-1974), also known as Ashivak Karruq, was a prolific artist born near Talurjuak in the Kitikmeot Region of Nunavut. He settled in the community in the mid-1960s and absolutely transformed sculpture in this region and achieved international recognition before dying tragically in a house fire at the age of 34.

What material is this made out of? This sculpture is made primarily out of fossilized whalebone, though details like the eyes are accentuated with inlay. The local stone in the area is very difficult to work with and most carvers there do work in whalebone (partly thanks to the influence of Ashevak). To be carved, whalebone must be fossilized. New whalebone leaks oil and will break if carved, so it must be aged at least 75 years before an artist works with it. Whalebone is abundant in the Arctic thanks to centuries of whaling, both by Inuit, their ancestors the Thule and non-Aboriginal people.

What is the sculpture of? Precisely what it is titled, spirits. Ashevak was very interested in exploring the traditional spirituality of the local Inuit, known as the Netsilingmiut or “people of the seal”. He was fascinated by transformational imagery and often carved otherwordly figures like this.

How did this come into the museum’s collection? The piece was brought into the museum via the Sprott Acquisition Program, which helps MIA acquire exquisite pieces by master artists.

This is just a brief summary of one of the most interesting and admired pieces we have in the museum (and a special look at the back of the sculpture, which is rarely visible!). We will be profiling more pieces from our collection here – do you have any favorites you’d like to learn more about?

Published by: Alysa Procida, MIA’s Educational Coordinator