Birds Take Center Stage at the Arctic Museum April 28

In springtime millions of birds flock to the Arctic to nest and raise their young in the brief northern summer, so it is an appropriate time for The Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum’s newest exhibit, Power of Flight: Visions of Birds in Inuit Art. The exhibit, which opens the evening of Thursday, April 28, 2016, explores the many ways that birds have figured in Inuit culture and inspired Inuit artists.

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“Shaman Transformation,” Billy Gauthier. Northwest River, 2006. Alabaster, serpentine, and limestone. Museum purchase. Photo by Dean Abramson.

To celebrate the opening of the exhibit, the evening will begin with a lecture by Alysa Procida, Executive Director of the Inuit Art Foundation. Procida’s talk, “Supporting Art Across the Inuit Region: A Look at the Inuit Art Foundation,” will take place at 7 p.m., Thursday, April 28, 2016, in Kresge Auditorium, Visual Arts Center. Procida will discuss the ways in which the Foundation, founded in 1987, helps Canadian Inuit artists develop their careers and promotes contemporary Inuit art in Canada and around the world.

The lecture will be followed by a reception in Hubbard Hall and an opportunity to view the exhibit. The lecture and reception are free and open to the public.

Shaman Transformation, Billy Gauthier. Northwest River, 2006.Alabaster, serpentine, and limestone. Museum purchase. Photo by Dean Abramson.

“Red-Faced Cormorants,” Al Mayac, Anchorage, 2003. Ivory and paint. Museum Purchase. Photo by Luc Demers.

The return of birds in the spring has signaled a time of plenty for generations in the north. Birds have provided people food, feathers, and birdskins, and they signal the arrival of other migratory animals. Birds, sometimes in human form, also figure prominently in many Inuit myths and legends. Some birds’ ability to move easily through air and water also make them import spiritually, as they help shamans fly to the spirit world.

The exhibit includes more than 50 sculptures and prints by Canadian and Alaskan artists, as well as some rare birdskin items. “We are trying to show how important birds are to the Inuit,” said curator Genevieve LeMoine. “Once you start looking for them in Inuit mythology and art, you realize that they are everywhere.”

The exhibit features birds in different forms. Beautifully detailed and realistic carvings from Alaska appear alongside more abstract Canadian forms. Prints in particular feature imaginative visions of legendary figures and bird/shaman transformations. This exhibit is also an opportunity to see some rarely exhibit items made from carefully prepared birdskins, including dolls wearing birdskin clothing and a dramatic eider skin blanket.

Power of Flight: Visions of Birds in Inuit Art will be on view from April 28, 2016 through March 26, 2017. The museum is located on the first floor of Hubbard Hall on the Bowdoin College campus, and is open Tuesday through Saturday 10 a.m.– 5 p.m. and Sunday 2 p.m.–5 p.m. Closed Mondays and national holidays. Admission is free. For more information, visit the Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum website or call 207-725-3416.

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