OWL

INUIT: ISHUHUNGITUK ETUNGAT

STONE

ARTIST
BIOGRAPHY

A master carver, Ishuhungituk Etungat was born on May 11, 1947 in Kingnait, Nunavut, Canada. He comes from a family of acclaimed sculpture artists including his parents, Abraham and Itigayaqyuaq Etungat, his sister Iqaluk and his step-brother Lucassie.

Now in his late sixties, Ishuhungituk is known for his sculptures of arctic wildlife, in particular owls, ravens and other birds. His work has a contemporary, almost modernist feel but still retains the simplicity that the best of Inuit sculpture is known for.  Birds were an important part of traditional Inuit life. In addition to being sources of food and other materials, migratory birds also signaled the changing seasons. Very few species live in the Arctic year-round: these birds which include owls, ravens and ptarmigan, are depicted more regularly than their migratory counterparts.

The Uppik (Snowy Owl) lives all year round in the Arctic. Its feathers are mostly white, and it has round, staring eyes. Snowy owls have big sharp claws on their feet. Their favorite food is the Avingngaq (lemming), but they can kill and eat bigger animals, such as snowshoe rabbits and Arctic hares. A snowy owl can swallow a lemming whole. Snowy owls are very patient birds. They will sit very still for a long time, waiting for a lemming to show up.

Ishuhungituk is recognized for his sensitive depiction of Snowy owls - carving them as he sees and knows them in nature - with huge, staring eyes, flowing graceful lines and full, rounded bodies. He depicts the Snowy owl in all its poses that are found in the Arctic –crouching, darting, resting, waiting, hiding or even sheltering from the cold. Ishuhungituk’s work plays with shape – an owl’s wings can contrast dramatically to the size and rounded shape of the body. He manages to capture the strong but delicate character of the bird, the motion, the confidence, the whimsy and sometimes an almost cheeky resilience.

Ishuhungituk continues to carve and live in the North and is married to Pukaluk, the daughter of the late Etidlooie Etidlooie, who is also an artist. His work is contained in notable collections all over the world including the Canadian Guild of Crafts, Montreal, Quebec, Canada and the Dennos Museum Center, Northwestern Michigan College, Traverse City, Michigan, USA.

Selected Exhibitions  1995 The Birds of Cape Dorset: A Collections of Sculpture by 32 Cape Dorset Carvers, Albers Gallery of Inuit Art, San Francisco, CA 1988 Tundra & Ice: Stone mages of Animals and Man, Orca Art at the Adventurer Club, Chicago, IL 1984 On the Land, The Arctic Circle, Los Angeles, CA 1983 Return of the Birds, Vancouver, BC