Representation and abstraction, free-flowing creative response and premeditated conceptualization are in constant flux in my work. Each piece is an exercise in finding a balance between these elements. A form of automatic drawing brings forth imagery from my subconscious mind as I relinquish control to the creative process. The merging and melding of forms symbolize the fluidity of matter and energy, and the flow of consciousness within all things. It is my interpretation of the traditional Inuit belief that all things have a “soul."
A biography of sorts and musings on Inuit art:
(I wrote this at the end of October, 2015, while preparing for the Nunatsiavut Arts and Crafts Exhibition)
I was just working on my piece "Growth" and worrying a little about how it might be accepted by the Inuit community and the Inuit art market alike. I've been interviewed a few times now and I get so nervous that I never quite say everything that I often think about. So today I took a break and all of these thoughts kept jumbling through my head about the definition of Inuit art, and how we can define Nunatsiavut art or the newest generation of Inuit artists in Canada. To try to define our art as Inuit only if it follows the conventions of "traditional" Inuit art mainly from Nunavut and Nunavik, isn't realistic and quite frankly it's unfair.
For example, I am a product of my own time and place, genetics and culture. I grew up in the most southerly Inuit region which is below the treeline, and has a long history of colonization and genetic mixing. But many of those tough old Scots and Brits from the 1800's fell in love with Labrador and it's people. In many ways they adopted the practical culture of the Inuit. I am a product of this unique and diverse culture that formed in the coves and bays of Nunatsiavut.
I grew up in the 70's and 80's, with long boat rides, skidoo rides, and float planes trips, summers at our cabin, weekends away from town berry picking, egg picking, no running water, and at first – no phones or TV. Later the CBC would show us the world "outside". I only magazines we had were my grandmother's copies of Reader's Digest and National Geographic and my favourite shows were the Wonderful World of Disney and The Nature of Things. One of the episodes that totally blew my mind was one about the growth patterns found in nearly all living things and you can see it's inspired my work today. I also fell in love with the animated shorts from the National Film Board of Canada especially the one where the many faces of Canadians morphed into one another and it included the faces of Inuit. There was also the animation of a morphing maple leaf. We also watched "Tuktu" on film in kindergarten and grade one. My favourite book was Pookie by Ivy Wallace which featured the most beautiful watercolour paintings of a magical fairyland. I wondered what it would be like to be able to dig a big hole and live underground, or to have a real tree house (both are impossible in the north). My friends and I marveled at the pressed maple leaf that Aunt Elsie had tucked away in her Bible, and Sherlock's real peacock feather was like something out of a fairytale. Mainstream north american culture may as well have been a fairytale. I'd look up at the fuel trails of jets and wonder who those people were and where they were going, wondering if I'd ever leave Labrador and see the outside world.
But my grandmother was a teacher and she made sure we got a good education, so that we could dream big. If we wanted to leave and see the world, we had a way to make it happen. Thanks to the Labrador Inuit Assocation I had to option to go to university and move to Newfoundland where I had to learn about escalators, sliding doors, buses, banks, and ordering fast food. I've come along way, but that young girl is still inside of me. But she's been added to. Nothing's been taken away.
Which brings me back to he notion of "Inuit art" and where I fit in. The influence of art school, introuduction to new materials, new ways of thinking about the purpose of art and the message you want to send to your audiece are all part of my art making now. After curating at the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs (Now Indigenous and Northern Affairs) working at the National Gallery of Canada during the Sakahan international indigenous art exhibition, and working at Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, everything that I've thought about Inuit culture and art, I feel like it's all coming together. When considering my older works, there is a part of me that is completely stressed out by creating something representational with careful perespective and proportions. Perhaps there is some genetic imprint at work, shared with the first Inuit artists of our time. Using the ink blot process frees me from those constraints and I believe it is closer to what “traditonal” Inuit art was – a process of revealing what was already there. I try to turn of my conscious mind and allow my subconscious mind to draw what it sees. Berries, roots, veins and brain synapses come pouring out onto the page. All of these things are rattling around in my brain, planted in a time of great changes for Inuit in Nunatsiavut. I like stepping back from my piece after it's completed, trying to make sense of these associations , and seeing it as a visual representation of my generation. Yes, we are Inuit and in my opinion, what our artists are creating is in fact “Inuit art”.