Maureen Gruben: TUKTUUYAQTUUQ (Caribou Crossing)
University of Victoria Legacy Art Galleries, Victoria, BC
LEGACY GALLERY, Victoria BC - May 2 - Aug 27
By Christine Clark
Based in Tuktoyaktuk, N.W.T., Maureen Gruben is an Inuvialuk artist. Inuvialuit are Inuit who live in the western Canadian Arctic region. This is where Gruben grew up and to where she returned in August of 2019, after spending many years raising her family in Victoria. As a child, she grew up in a family who taught her traditional knowledge and skills. Gruben’s mother made her family’s clothing by hand and from her father she learned how to trap animals. These skills and materials taken from bears, seals and caribou are the basis of the artist’s contemporary work.
Gruben is an artist-activist. Her latest work, TUKTUUYAQTUUQ (Caribou Crossing), pays homage to the caribou. For Inuvialuit, the caribou are necessary to life in the North, providing food and clothing for the people who hunt. In this exhibition, Gruben created intricate pieces made from caribou heart and bone. Through her work, she introduces those of us living in the South to the wild open expanses, the silence, and the free-ranging animals of the northern landscape. How many of us have seen up close a swatch of caribou fur? Or a caribou heart?
Gruben has created many works of sculpture, video and land art about communal living, personal ingenuity, and the deep respect people in the North have for their neighbours and for the animals and the environment they depend upon. She has been studying fi ne arts since 1990, earning a BFA from the University of Victoria in 2012, and has received numerous scholarships and awards for her work.