For centuries the Indigenous people of North America have made imprints in the landscape with the use of stone. Inuit people built guideposts to food caches and hunting locations, making landmarks in a vast landscape. The Woodland Indians created petroglyphs and designs that were chiseled onto rock surfaces. This act of engraving was a permanent record of dreams and visions, also representing mythical figures and legends. Stone is everlasting and as such acts as a key component of aboriginal cultural history. Traditional teachings reference stone as having a living connection to the land and to the spirit world. The artists in Cornerstone, Michael Belmore (Anishnabe) and David Ruben Piqtoukun (Inuit), explore their own relations to stone, land and mythology. It is through the process of exploration that the artists are also able to expand on their personal history and their relationship to traditional practices. Grotesques of the Eastern Woodlands, Michael Belmore's installation for this exhibition, combines the style of the European Gothic architectural era with Anishnabe petroglyphs. Carving from limestone found in the Great Lakes area, Belmore created a gargoyle in the form of Misshipeshu. According to Anishnabe tradition, Misshipeshu is a mythical water god who lives in the lakes and rivers of the Canadian Shield, and serves also as a reminder of the great power and beauty of nature. Like gargoyles, Misshipeshu is a protector, keeping evil away from the surroundings. Adjacent to the gargoyle is a long linear cluster of interlocking stones, their layout and appearance similar to the white foam or bubbles that form naturally along a shoreline. Belmore explains, "The precision of the interlocking stone reflects not only the visual formation of air bubbles within water but also the conceptual and real implications of the effect our actions have upon the natural world." As Anishnabe people move into urban settings, culture shifts become necessary, and sharing of cultural traditions is evident in the development of Anishnabe art. Through this installation Belmore prompts us to think about mythological and spiritual forms that protect us, as well as our actions to care for land and nature. On the second floor of the gallery, David Ruben Piqtoukun's works express his influence by Inuit mythology. Piqtoukun believes in these teachings; he states that "they speak about everlasting and universal values, values that are shared by all nations, all peoples". Piqtoukun, who is well known for his stone carving, has moved with ease into the field of public sculpture. In this exhibition, we see an assortment of preliminary sketches for past public commissions. His work provides testimony to the power of stone in a variety of forms. Piqtoukun is an artist who uses traditional approaches and contemporary initiatives. At Gallery 101, Piqtoukun presents three recent works, Tsunami: Wave of the Creative Spirit, Inukshuk Transformation and The Guardians of Life and Nature. The latter was a major installation produced for the China Changchun International Sculpture Symposium, 2000, a tribute to Sedna, the central deity of the Inuit - part female and part creature of the sea. The sculpture incorporates a second female face, a one-eyed shaman, and a large “pearl of wisdom” at the base. Together, these images “represent the past, present and future."1 A series of images documenting the beginning stages through to the completion of the project will be on view at the gallery. Also on view is Tsunami: Wave of the Creative Spirit, a maquette for a future public sculpture, incorporating a series of abstracted waves that references melting ice and the cyclical rebuilding of Igloos on top of melted ones. This arrangement evokes the beauty and dynamism in nature, but in the form of a tsunami, showing the destruction and renewal in nature, which is also inherent in the creative process. The third work in this exhibition is the life-size Inukshuk Transformation, in which the incorporation of modern building materials references the influence of industrialization and new ways of treating raw materials through new technologies. This diverse selection of process and final art objects, expresses Piqtoukun’s versatility and understanding of material process. Piqtoukun continues a practice of shaping and creating markers with stone, exhibiting his work beyond his regional or territorial place of origin and furthering his path, attesting to both his presence and ours. Cornerstone is not so much about the literal meaning of a physical space or structure, but the artist’s ability to articulate an understanding of the materials. Stone in particular holds energy, and once transformed it speaks of the artists’ creative process and of their cultural experience. An experience based on cultural shifts and expansion of physical spaces and locations. It is the combination of material, artistry, understanding of personal history and cultural narratives that guide both of the artists. Curator, Frank Shebageget
Thursday, September 8, 2005 to Saturday, October 1, 2005Opening
1. David Ruben Piqtoukun, “The Inuk Sculpture Arts and China Changchun International Sculpture Symposium,” Sculpturing Brilliance: The Essays Collection of Topic Forum China Changchun International Sculpture Symposium 2003, Changchun Publishing House, China, p. 137.
- Thursday, September 8, 2005