The Art Caravan enjoys multi-genre artistic projects. Think of Michael Oondatje’s book, The Collected Works of Billy the Kid, or The Memory Palace , multi-sensory installations by Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller and Sarah Anne Johnson’s thematic work which uses photography as a springboard to other visual interpretations. The works are complex in form, and meaning – the best kind of art, don’t you think? It challenges us, the audience, to ask questions, examine preconceptions, interpret freely.
Maureen Gruben‘s exhibition Tuktuuyaqtuuk (Caribou Crossing) at the Legacy Gallery is a fascinating combination of poetry, installation and sculpture, documenting a life unfamiliar to many of us. Born and raised in Tuktoyaktuk, Ms Gruben’s work reflects life in the Western Arctic.
Tuktoyaktuk (English) / Tuktuuyaqtuuk (Inuvialuktun) means Looks like a Caribou. Initially, it was jarring to see that several of the pieces are composed of different parts of a caribou. Consider this untitled piece, below. Imagine my surprise, and curiosity, when I discovered the main structure is a caribou heart sac – the membrane that contains the muscle of the heart. Its translucent beauty is transformed into a nest like object – a symbol of (perhaps?) home, nurture, growth, life.
Superseded is the foundational piece of the show. Its colour commands immediate attention while the other artworks seem to reflect the natural Arctic palette. The manufactured, hard-edged materials used in this piece contrast vividly with her wide-ranging use of natural materials in the other works.
With Superseded, Ms Gruben repurposes the red tin plates (government issued markers) that were used to divide the land into distinct ownership parcels. The beautiful line of soldering overlaying the plates could echo the wandering journeys of the caribou, and, presumably, their hunters. Such a line is also found in caribou skulls. How curious is that?
Challenging questions about ownership, settlement, indigenous life, and boundaries emerge….but subtly, like the fine line in a caribou skull, or the delicacy of a heart sac. Superseded does what good art can do – give visual pleasure, as well as challenge us intellectually and emotionally.
This five minute video from the Legacy Gallery is a tour of the exhibition, with commentary. It’s worth watching, especially for people unable to view the works in person. I’m happy to report the show is on for another two weeks, so I will see it again.