The Creative Endeavors Thread Counts Its Blessings

This is the space for our members to discuss and share their creative projects, ranging from written works to drawings, photography, and even craft projects such as knitting and woodworking. Self promotion is welcome (websites where we can view and/or purchase your work). Please do continue to preface if content is NSFW and be sure to properly spoiler/link such content.

One of the more eye-opening art books I’ve read recently is Emily Auger’s The Way of Inuit Art: Aesthetics and History in and Beyond the Arctic (McFarland & Co.; Jefferson, NC, 2005), which looks at the origins and development of art in (mainly) the Canadian Arctic, and then surveys a number of different Inuit communities (primarily in Baffin Island’s Cape Dorset—given the Inuktitut name Kinngait by local vote last year) on their approaches and attitudes to their work. This last is probably the most fascinating, as is their reaction to the work of non-indigenous Canadian artist Nicola Wojewoda, whose sculptures and multimedia paintings heavily reference (if in a vague way) impressions and inspirations from Inuit culture.

I became interested in Inuit art after a popular exhibit at the local art museum in 2019 (still ongoing, if memory serves, when the balloon went up last March) featuring sculptures, watercolors, and prints from mostly Kinngait artists. It was amazing to see some of the subtle detail that went into the work (especially the sculptures) and I still suspect some of my impressions at the time later went into my own watercolors. I’d long been curious to learn more about the artists’ background and their world, and Auger’s survey certainly satisfies, though in a somewhat melancholy way.

Pretty much all of the artists interviewed create their work as a financial necessity given the challenges of life in both an arctic environment and a traditional hunting society wired to a capitalist economy (plagued with a number of issues even before the ravages of climate change became obvious); as with other indigenous artforms in colonial countries (having read of the explosion of Aboriginal art in 70s Australia, this all felt awfully familiar), production infrastructure (materials, occasionally studio space) and marketing of prints and sculptures are handled by an outside authority, in this case the system of co-ops begun by artist and promoter James Houston in the 1950s.

The system in general has led to Inuit art’s popularity in a number of metropoles, though many of the artists themselves wonder if they’re properly remunerated (not least in an artistic economy that lends itself to cheap knockoffs by non-Inuit artists). It was also interesting to see how similar and different motivations and definitions of success were to generally perceived “Western” standards (most of the artists generally credited the quality of likeness as the most important metric, though some tended more towards abstraction). The book was an illuminating read with some interesting insights from the artists that made me realize how lucky I am to have what I do as a vocation (or at the very least choice) rather than an economic livelihood. There’s a good article here and I’m looking forward to learning more about the subject, hopeful as well that Inuit artists find more success in the face of so many challenges.

The header is my watercolor Stolen Snows, from a year ago; as with most of my work, I didn’t have a clear idea of what I was doing when I started out, but after it all came together, I had to step back and wonder how much of what I’d recently seen at the museum had snuck its way in. I would have posted images of the work discussed but it feels like there are extra ethical thorns to doing so when it comes to indigenous artwork and in any case there are plenty of examples in the links (which I encourage y’all to check out).

How’s your work going?