NUTARALUK UILIA IYAITUK (1943-), E9-966, Ivujivik
POLAR BEAR AND CUB
signed in syllabics with with disc number, c. 1980s
17 x 10 x 15 in — 43.2 x 25.4 x 38.1 cm
Although Nutaraaluk and his younger brother Matiusi (b. 1950) were raised in the same hardship-filled circumstances, they ended up leading very different lives and artistic careers. Matiusi went to school, became a policeman and then an artist known for his wide-ranging curiosity, experimentation, travels, and involvement with the Inuit Art Foundation. Nutaraaluk, as the oldest surviving sibling working to support a desperately poor family, took the traditional path. He spent his life as a hunter and carver, living and working in the tiny isolated community of Ivujivik. He specialized in large works “because they feel better in my hands.” His favourite subjects were women and bears: “I have seen many bears, but I don’t carve the actual bear; I carve the feel of the bear. I wouldn’t want to carve from a live model. I carve from my head.”
Nutaraaluk’s bear quote could have come from Pauta Saila. Had he lived in Cape Dorset, Nutaraaluk might have followed in Pauta’s footsteps as a famous carver of bears. Polar Bear and Cub is a magnificent sculpture, capturing power and ferocity on the one hand, and maternal tenderness on the other. It’s an imposing work that nonetheless draws us in. We can almost hear the mother bear giving tips on hunting to her cub.
References: see Marybelle Myers, “The Iyaituk Brothers: Nutaraaluk and Mattiusi” in Inuit Art: An Anthology (Watson & Dwyer, 1988) pp. 64-75. Above quotes are from this source.
First Arts: Inuit & First Nations Art Auction www.firstarts.ca
a Toronto collection