Traverse City, MI, Oct 16-18
Featuring Anita Issaluk
By Cymbre Foster Special to the Record-Eagle
Anita Issaluk began carving stone just 11 years ago.
Today she is an internationally known Inuk stone carver.
Issaluk arrived in Traverse City this week to demonstrate her work for school children, the public and members of the U.S. Inuit Art Society. The group is holding its annual conference through Sunday at the Dennos Museum Center at Northwestern Michigan College. Also kicking off this weekend is the museum’s annual Cape Dorset graphics exhibition and sale.
It’s all part of Northwestern Michigan College’s long association with the arts and culture of the Inuit people, natives of the Canadian Arctic. It began in 1960 with Bernie Rink, then director of the Osterlin Library at NMC, becoming a distributor of a set of prints from Kinngait Studios in Cape Dorset, where art plays a central role in the community economy and preservation of Inuit culture.
After that, Inuit prints primarily were acquired for the college collection by hosting an annual exhibition and sale.
As a result, Inuit art can be viewed year-round at the museum. It now houses one of the largest and most historically complete collections of Inuit sculptures and prints in the country, with more than 1,000 works.
“For us at the museum, what it has meant most is connecting us with private collectors of Inuit art,” said museum Director Gene Jenneman. “Many of these collectors are making decisions about what to do with their collections when they don’t want them or when they are gone. Various collectors have decided to leave them to the museum.”
This year marks the first time the museum has hosted the U.S. Inuit Art Society’s annual conference. Participants are attending panel discussions and lectures and visiting private Inuit collections.
Carolyn Drake, a member of the Inuit Art Society, was thrilled that both the public and the Society members had an opportunity to meet Issaluk and watch her demonstrate her work.
Issaluk, who was born and raised near Chesterfield Inlet on the west coast of Hudson Bay, began carving in 1996 after watching her father at work when she was a child.
“I found I could form any figure in the stone, provided the right tools, supplies and a good place to work,” said the artist, who now lives in Winnipeg.
She believes she is helping the Inuit culture through her work.
“Ten years ago I had no idea how important this was to Inuit culture and it was a real honor to be doing it and to be able to talk about it,” said Issaluk.
Some of her favorite subjects are bears, birds, Sednas (Arctic mermaids), mothers and children, masks and sea spirits.
“I have a clear picture beforehand and then I have to find the stone,” she explained. “The work practically becomes a part of me. I just enjoy doing this carving.”
This year’s print sale kicked off Friday night and the exhibit runs through Nov. 25. For more information, call (616) 995-1586.
Anita Issaluk’s Biography
Anita was born and raised near Chesterfield Inlet which is on the west coast of Hudson Bay. She began carving in 1996 after watching her father carve when she was a child. She also has learned from, and worked with, other well-known Inuit artists such as George Arlook, Alex Alikashuak and Lucy Tasseo. In addition to being a sculptor, she is multi-talented as she is also a singer/musician and painter. Her work has been exhibited across North America and abroad. Her work has been recognized in the Inuit Art Quarterly (Vol. 14, No. 4, Winter 1999, pgs. 25-27, 34-35).
Some of her favorite subjects include dancing bears, Sednas, mothers and children, owls, masks, and sea spirits. Before Anita begins a carving, she sees the image in the raw stone and, by working the stone, she releases the image from it. Anita’s carvings are wonderfully exuberant and beautifully balanced with minimal detail, flowing lines and gentle curves.
She currently resides in Winnipeg, MB.