The Jacqui and Morris Shumiatcher Collection of Inuit Art
Contains Illustrations, Index
Patricia Vervoort is an assistant professor of art history at Lakehead
A traditional catalogue, with text followed by the works reproduced in photographs by Don Hall, the Jacqui and Morris Shumiatcher Collection of Inuit art was exhibited at the Norman Mackenzie Art Gallery, University of Regina, September 4 to October 11, 1981. Begun in 1954, the collection includes many works produced in the early stages of the contemporary phase of Eskimo ant. “Stone, Bone and Mulberry Paper,” by Morris Shurniatchen expresses the collector’s love and fascination for Inuit ant. Nelda Swinton, guest curator of the exhibition, wrote the introduction. Five colour plates and 119 black-and-white photographs make a visual record of the exhibition. Each photograph is accompanied by the usual information: artist’s name and birthdate, location of origin, name of work and date, material, and measurements in both inches and metric. A bibliography, map of Inuit communities, and an index by location and artist complete the catalogue.
On page 81, where a whale bone Drum Beater is illustrated, there is a note explaining that the drum beater is essential to aiding the shaman’s entrance into a trance-like state. This note, one of two textual notes within the catalogue (the other is on page 69), indicates, I believe, a flaw in the catalogue’s arrangement. The informative introduction makes comparisons and discusses individual works, but the layout requires the reader to flip pages. For example, two anthropomorphic carvings discussed on page 17 are illustrated on page 90 (cat. no. 108) and on page 82 (cat. no. 94). After a few tries, the reader is likely to give up attempting to match text with illustration. Moreover, the catalogue portion appears to be arranged in a random fashion. Individual works are not grouped by artist, date, material, or location, nor by relationship with the text.
Simeonie Weetaluktuk’s Hand Ash Tray (cat. no. 118) is examined as an ironical example of Inuit concession to western conventions; how much more relevant this discussion would be if text (p. 19) and picture (p. 96) were juxtaposed. There is some discussion of technique in relation to carving and print-making, yet technical information for Kukshout’s Pie Man/Bird Composition (cat. no. 85 and colour plate, p.6) only states that it is created with unglazed clay. This material is not associated generally with Inuit art; it is the only example in this exhibition.
Like all catalogues which record private collections, this makes a contribution to the history of Inuit art. Its use, however, would have been greatly improved if the instructive text could have been juxtaposed with the pictures or the pictures arranged to coordinate with the text.