Carleton University Art Gallery CUAG

The Past Is Present: Memory and Continuity in the Tyler/Brooks Collection of Inuit Art

Curated by Anne de Stecher, presented in partnership with the National Gallery of Canada's Sakahàn: International Indigenous Art

18 June – 11 August 2013

For Priscilla Tyler and Maree Brooks, their lifelong passion for Inuit art began during a chance visit to Fairbanks, Alaska, in 1970. Over the following twenty years and many visits to the North, they formed friendships with Inuit artists and storytellers. Their vision, grounded in the importance of community memory and cultural continuity, inspired them to build a remarkable collection of prints and sculptures and an extensive oral literature archive, comprised of texts and audio recordings. They donated their rich collection to Carleton University Art Gallery in 1992.

Celebrating the 20th anniversary of Priscilla Tyler and Maree Brooks’s gift to CUAG of their collection of Inuit art, The Past is Present features prints and sculptures by such artists as Kenojuak Ashevak, Jessie Oonark, Davidialuk, Helen Kalvak, and Luke Anguhadluq. It reflects the collectors’ holistic vision by presenting prints and sculptures that are contextualized with information from the oral history archive and by audio and textual materials. Dr. Tyler, an English professor whose expertise was oral literature, and Ms. Brooks, a public school teacher, were particularly inspired by the rich oral traditions of the Arctic. They recorded narratives told by storytellers and elders in the western Arctic, and collected prints and sculptures in the eastern Arctic in which artists explored the same themes.

The Past is Present is also inspired by narratives found in the collectors’ rich textual archive: accounts of life on the land, the respect for animals on which Inuit communities depend, and the stories that teach and preserve this knowledge. The exhibition demonstrates how artists, writers, and others document and transmit knowledge through a range of media. Priscilla Tyler died in 1999, and Maree Brooks in 2012. Today, their collection continues to communicate their passion for Inuit art and their belief in the importance of Inuit knowledge and cultural continuity.

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