Saturday, August 29, 2009

Abraham Anghik Ruben: De Young Museum

 Made of calcite, caribou antler, musk ox horn and commericial cotton fiber, this "Passage of Spirits"" by Ruben is one of the most beautiful and mysterious pieces in the show. The sea goddess Sedna, sits at the bow of the boat, guiding the rowers over the dangerous ocean. The small sculptures in the boat are half human and half animal; features are indicated with minimal and elegant carving. The caribou antler sails could represent the swirling firmament or the smoke that issues from lamps, lighting the way in a dark universe. 

Most of the objects on display are of historical importance and show how Eskimo and Inuit peoples rose to the challenge of their difficult environment. Using scarce materials, they created utilitarian items that are both functional and beautiful. But contemporary Native Peoples have had to deal with an economy and a culture that pose even more problems than the harsh winters and dangerous animals of the Far North. European influence, starting with the Russians in the early 19th century brought whiskey, racism, overpriced material goods and disease. For a long time, the actions of the US government weren't much better. Now, the Eskimo and Inuit peoples are facing the destruction of their traditional hunting areas due to global warming along with the high cost of food and other items. At the gallery opening, Susie Silook mentioned that milk costs $10 a gallon. For artists like Silook and Ruben (among others) to affirm their traditional spirituality while creating works of great artistic value is nothing short of miraculous.


image courtesy of Andrew Fox/FAMSF

4 comments:

Zoomie said...

A beautiful way to say "We're all in this boat together." Let's hope the efforts to curb global warming serve to repair their environment.

Kathleen said...

I am delighted to share--tomorrow at the 27th annual Bouquets to Art, San Francisco's de Young museum, I will interpret with floral design Mr. Ruben's "Passage of Spirits." Included in my piece are (spirit) rocks I collected on North Beach in Port Townsend, Washington, along with shells, berries, an agave leaf boat, and a sail-spirit of curly willow. An honor and I am truly excited. Best, Kathleen, Kate's Blossoms

j3nny said...

Does anyone here know what year this sculptor was made?

namastenancy said...

It's a contemporary piece - you can probably find a date on the museum's website.