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Cultural Reflections: Inuit Art from the Collection of the Dennos Museum Center

November 4, 2005 - May 29, 2006

 

Visitors to the Rockwell Museum of Western Art this Fall will experience the native culture of the icy Canadian Arctic through collections of contemporary sculpture, prints and drawings by Inuit artists. The Rockwell Museum of Western Art will present, as the last of four special exhibitions this year, Cultural Reflections: Inuit Art from the Collection of the Dennos Museum Center from November 4, 2005 to May 29, 2006. (right: Harry Egutak and Mona Ohoveluk, Fishing with Spear and Lure, 1978, stonecut, 8/50, 18 x 24 inches)

This exhibition will give the region a rare opportunity to view the evolution of the dynamic Inuit culture still in process. The collection is a reflection of life on the land; a record of daily events and serves as a visual narrative for keeping alive the old ways; the old life of skin tents and snow houses, the nomadic life when seasonal hunting dictated lifestyle and, in essence, survival.

The Dennos Museum Center's collection boasts one of the largest and most historically complete public collections of Inuit contemporary art by the Inuit artists of the Canadian Arctic to be found in the United States. This major collection is permanently showcased at Northwestern Michigan College in Traverse City, MI.

The works in Cultural Reflections: Inuit Art from the Collection of the Dennos Museum Center, presents a survey of Inuit stone cut, stencil and lithograph prints, and sculptures from the late 50s to the present. Selected from over 1000 objects in the Museum's permanent collection, the exhibition features artists from numerous communities within Nunavut, the new Canadian territory. As a whole, the exhibition is intended to reveal the vision and scope of Contemporary Inuit art, not only through first generation masters such as Parr, Pudlo Pudlat, Kenojuak Ashevak, and Kananginak, to name a few, but "second generation" artists as well.

 

Corning Collection Connection

World wide awareness of Inuit art originated with the assistance of James Houston, noted artist, author and designer for Steuben Glass, who collected small carvings made by Canada's aboriginal (Inuit) peoples in the late 1940s. He brought the sculptures to southern Canada where they were subsequently sold to support the economic needs of the Inuit people.

In 1953 James Houston solicited support from his friend, Eugene Power, who was born in Traverse City, to help import Inuit art into the United States. Power, who owned and operated University Microfilms in Ann Arbor, established a non-profit gallery in Ann Arbor called Eskimo Art Incorporated to import the work. He encouraged the Cranbrook Institute of Science to host the first exhibition of Inuit art in the United States in 1953.

Later Houston taught the Inuit to make unique stone cut and seal skin stencil prints and in 1959 the first collection of Inuit prints was released at Cape Dorset. (right: Seepee Iellie, Narwhal, 1982, serpentine, 7.5 x 7.5 inches)

In 1960 Wilbur Munnecke of Field Enterprises in Chicago, who was on the Board of Eskimo Inc., gave Northwestern Michigan College (NMC) in Traverse City a small collection of sculpture and prints to sell and Bernie Rink, Director of the Library, used proceeds from the sale to purchase some of the work. Thus began the collection of Inuit Art.

The exhibition will open with a reception at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, November 3 at the Rockwell Museum of Western Art. Fee. Reservations can be made by calling 607.974.2333.

 

Editor's note: Although the focus of the exhibition is on Inuit individuals residing in Canada, the Inuit people also reside in Alaska and are considered Native Americans as well as Native Canadians.

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