Carleton University Art Gallery CUAG

The Art of Transformation: The Fantastic in Inuit and Northwest Coast Art

Curated by Wendy Moir

23 February – 12 April 2009

Dramatic supernatural creatures, hybrid beasts and spirit worlds have captivated artists’ imaginations for centuries. Just as transformation themes figure prominently in the arts of ancient civilizations like India, Egypt and Greece, they similarly appear in art made in North America. This exhibition explores how the theme of transformation manifests itself in the work of Inuit and Northwest Coast Aboriginal artists. The exhibition presents works by Inuit artists including Kenojuak Ashevak, Jessie Oonark, Noah Meeko, and Victoria Mamnguqsualuk as well as Northwest Coast Aboriginal artists such as Art Thompson, Tim Paul, Richard Hunt and Don Yeomans.

The Art of Transformation features over 30 prints, drawings and sculptures portraying fantastic, otherworldly creatures. Now playful, now ominous and grotesque, they include a vengeful Volcano Woman and a Sea Goddess. Stories of fantastic figures serve numerous functions: they rationalize social taboos, play a role in creation stories, and account for sickness, famine and natural disasters. Such characters are frequently depicted in art not only because they possess significant powers but because they allow artists to experiment with form, colour and extraordinary subjects and settings.

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