Ursa Major: The Great Bear
From time immemorial the stars have provided inspiration for artists and story tellers. People of many different cultures have gazed upon one particular constellation in which they saw a bear, earning it the name Ursa Major, The Great Bear. Myths and legends have been born of this constellation and have been passed on from generation to generation through traditional oral culture.
The Inuit Gallery of Vancouver is pleased to offer this exhibition devoted to Ursa Major: The Great Bear, to use the name of this popular constellation in the northern hemisphere. It should be pointed out that the Inuit have another group of stars, Alnitak, which for them represented the bear, as well as others that conjured the spirit of a bear, Taurus and Alderban, to use their more familiar appellations.
For many, a first introduction to the world of Inuit art has been a sculpture of a bear. Whether one of the creations in the rich serpentine stone of Baffin Island or the charm of works of other regions, bears have been working their magic for many years. Some of the earliest sculpture done by the Inuit and their predecessors were marvelous amulets depicting bears. These would assist in summoning spirit helpers to aid the hunt. Possession of the amulet would endow the hunter with some of the bears finely honed hunting skills, aiding the hunters’ quest to feed his family. The ubiquitous dancing bears depict this enduring tradition. They are great fun, filled with joyous abandon as they dance before our eyes, but they depict the moment of transformation when the shaman shifts to his bear guise to facilitate in the vitally important matter of finding sustenance. Great Bears indeed.
Most of these are recently created works from some of a variety of the best known Inuit artists. For example, Nuna Parr has provided a superb contemporary piece and we are fortunate to be able to juxtapose it with one done in the early 1990’s, ferocious teeth and all. Tuqialuk Nuna is particularly adept with the hard white marble that first appeared in the 1970’s and his monumental Family of Bears is nicely complimented by his Drum Dancing Bear. We are also delighted to include a handsome walking bear by the master bear carver, Pauta Saila, in this collection. Please join with us in celebrating The Great Bear.
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