Works from the uLehbridge Art Collection.
Curated by Kirstan Schamuhn, Museum Studies Intern.
When I began my curatorial internship with the University of Lethbridge Art Gallery, I was immediately drawn to the Inuit prints collection. The Art Gallery maintains a significant collection of Inuit prints, some of which have never been publicly shown before. Within the first week of my internship, I knew that I wanted to explore the unique voices of Inuit women artists in the collection.
When Inuit peoples began producing prints in the 1950s and 1960s as part of a federal initiative to bring economic prosperity to permanent settlements (following the often forced relocation of Inuit peoples), the artworks were generally viewed by Euro-Canadian buyers and collectors as distant in both time and space. The works were popular for showing imagery that was not readily available to southerners; images of polar bears, owls, seals, and igloos became the popular motifs for “armchair tourism” that brought southerners glimpses of the north through accessible print catalogues. However, these prints were far more than just images of popularized northern animals and symbols.
Many Inuit artists represented in this exhibition had grown up in the nomadic lifestyle, living in seasonal camps and travelling the north extensively. When they were settled in permanent villages, they began creating drawings and prints of what they knew, what they saw, and what they considered to be part of their homes. Their practices were diverse and constantly evolving as they experimented with new techniques and new imagery across a range of media from prints, sculpture and sewing to drawing, collaging, illustrating, and etching.
For this exhibit, I selected prints created by Inuit women artists from six communities in northern Canada. My primary interest focused on the dynamic voices of Inuit women who reflected their life through art. Inuit women played a significant role in developing the strong art communities and practices of Inuit artists today. Their artworks tell of their memories and experiences from all aspects of life, including play, storytelling, traveling, hunting, and the transition from nomadic lifestyles to permanent settlements. These women faced the changes to their lives with tenacity and determination, and translated their strength into their artworks while developing the distinct styles their communities became known for.
– Kirstan Schamuhn, Museum Studies Intern