‘Spirits of Land, Air and Water’: Inuit Antler Carvings at Arctic Museum

Carvings of drummers, dancers, acrobats and spirits of all sorts area on view in the Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum’s newest exhibit, Spirits of Land, Air, and Water: Antler Carvings from the Robert and Judith Toll Collection.

The exhibit features more than 30 carvings fashioned from caribou antlers by Inuit from the Canadian Arctic, as well as a selection of Inuit prints highlighting the significance of caribou in Inuit culture. “No two antlers are exactly alike, and artists are inspired by the different shapes of the antler racks,” says curator Genevieve LeMoine. “They transform the antler into everything from whimsical spirits to dramatic drummers, and even carve the antler into the likenesses of caribou.”

The carvings on display reflect the diverse approaches artists take to working with antler. Some pieces are minimally modified, taking advantage of the natural shapes and colors of antler to evoke animals, humans and spirits. Other works are carved extensively, and some are embellished with beads or fur, adding texture and color. The works individually and collectively reflect the inventiveness, playfulness and creativity of Inuit artists.

All of the pieces in the exhibit are drawn from the collection of Robert and Judith Toll. The Tolls made a major donation of Canadian Inuit art to the Arctic Museum in 2009 and have loaned additional pieces to the Arctic Museum for this exhibition.

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