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Life of Inuit people through their art.

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Stones, Bones and Stitches--Storytelling Through Inuit Art
By Shelley Falconer and Shawna White
Tundra Books
46 pages (hc)

inuit art
The McMichael Canadian Art Collection, located in the village of Kleinburg, Ont., just north of Toronto, boasts one of the most impressive collections of Canadian art to be found in any gallery, anywhere. Included in that collection are a number of piecesby Inuit artists, created using a number of different mediums and methods. Stones, Bones and Stitches takes a closer look at eight works that can be found in the collection, and at the artists who created them.

Featured in the book are Woman Quarrying Stone, a sculpture created by Oviloo Tunnillie; The Migration, a carving created by Joe Talirunili; an untitled wall hanging created by Jessie Oonark; Owl Spirit, a whalebone carving created by Lukta Qiatsuk; two works by sculpture David Ruben Piqtoukun--Alliok and Shaman Returning from the Moon; and two stonecut prints created by Kenojuak Ashevak--Flower Bird and Talelayu Opiitlu.

The book explores the inspiration behind creation of each piece of art, and the technique used by the artists. But it also offers the reader a glimpse into the lives of these creative individuals-their joys, their sorrows, and their way of life.

In addition to providing information about art and artists, Stones, Bones and Stitches also includes snippets of information about the far north. Explanatory paragraphs randomly pepper the book, educating those unfamiliar with the territory with facts about such things as soapstone, tuberculosis, northern housing, northern communities, and northern language.

Both of the book's authors work at the McMichael, Falconer as director of exhibitions and programs and senior curator, and White as assistant curator, which has allowed them to develop a deep understanding and appreciation for the subject matter. The reference to storytelling in the book's title is fitting, as telling stories has always been at the heart of the creation of Inuit art, whether it be recreating a moment from legends passed down through the generations, as Piqtoukun does in his carving of Alliok, an evil spirit that populated stories he'd heard as a child, or capturing an event from the artist's own personal history, as Talirunili did with The Migration, a piece inspired by the frequent voyages he and his family would undertake in search of better hunting grounds.


While the book only focuses on the work of six Inuit artists, those chosen represent a range of geographic areas, artistic styles and mediums. The artists featured come from right across the north, from Paulatuk, located along the shores of the Beaufort Sea in the west, to Puvirnituq, situated on the Hudson Bay in the Nunavik region of Quebec. They also represent both the old guard of the Inuit art world--Talirunili, Oonark, Qiatsuk, and Ashevak, who were among the first to embrace the art forms introduced by visitors from the south--and the current generation of artists--Tunnillie and Piqtoukun, who are finding new ways to represent the Inuit experience through their creations.

As a complement to Stones, Bones and Stitches, the McMichael has put together a Stones, Bones and Stitches exhibition that features the art of six Inuit artists, working in six different artistic mediums. 

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