Sunday, October 21, 2012

Arctic Journeys/Ancient Memories: The Sculpture of Abraham Anghik Ruben

Where: American Indian Museum

When: through January 2, 2013

I was very surprised by this exhibit; not only did it include works of art inspired by Native American sculptures, but also works of art inspired by Norse stories and sculptures.  When I come to this museum, I don't expect to see works that reflect my own ethnic background.  Yet, here are works that feature Thor and Odin!  It made me realize that people are far more connected than you think - what seems a culture unlike your own can be very similar, if you take the time to look closely.

Ruben is a sculptor who has taken as his subject here a contrast of the lives of two ancient northern people: the Norse and the Inuit.  Both groups were explorers; his work deals with this idea, along with the ideas of migration and displacement.  The polar bear is considered a powerful guardian spirit across the Arctic and his work features polar bears and other animals, whose spirits were important in these cultures.  In much of his work, I thought of the word "entwined."  The figures seem to move in and out, to come together and move apart.

Ruben uses Brazilian soapstone as his medium in many works - about as far from the Arctic as you can get.  Also featured are two impressive narwhal tusks, intricately carved.  At the back of the room, there is also a video, providing more information.

Verdict: This is a great small show - worth a look, regardless of your ethnicity!

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