Storytelling in Bone and Stone: New Masterpieces by Abraham Anghik Ruben
"I have chosen to be a storyteller for my people through the medium of sculpture."
Before finding its way to Sault Ste. Marie, this selection of works was on display at the Smithsonian Institution, National Museum for the American Indian in Washington, D.C. The exhibition closed in January 2013, but not before being viewed and photographed by over 500,000 visitors. The Art Gallery of Algoma is proud to be the first Canadian venue to host this high-caliber exhibition, and the artist, Abraham Anghik Ruben, plans on attending the closing of the exhibition in September.
Ruben's roots are in the Northwest Territories. He employs bone, stone, ivory and bronze to create remarkable sculptures featuring a unique stylization heavily influenced by both Scandinavian and Inuit cultures. These large modern-made pieces contrast with the ancient, 1,000-year-old myths they portray. Within his works, Ruben explores the migration of these peoples, due in part to the warming polar environment. This reflection on the past speaks to us in the present as we currently face a warming planet.
Spirituality is also a prominent and recurring theme in this exhibition, especially the character of the Shaman, recognized as the leader in these cultures, whose task it was to appease the forces believed responsible for the turbulent landscape. Not coincidentally, spirituality is an important subject for Ruben, as his maternal great-grandparents were respected in their community for their shamanic abilities, their rich cultural knowledge and oral histories, which where passed down to the children.
The artist recounts, "I have chosen to be a storyteller for my people through the medium of sculpture. Within these images, I attempt to evoke a range of thoughts, feelings, and emotions stirring within the audience; these same thoughts, feelings, and emotions I have wrought into my work. I no longer speak my mother tongue, yet I need to do my part in carrying on these stories and cultural myths, legends and spiritual legacy of our people. My hope is that my hands and spirit within will allow me this one gesture."
Abraham Anghik Ruben grew up in Paulatuk, located on Darnley Bay in the Amundsen Gulf, 170 kilometers north of the Arctic Circle in Canada's Northwest Territories. His family included fourteen siblings who moved seasonally to hunt, fish and trap. Ruben attended residential school from the age of eight, about 400 kilometers away from Paulatuk. He and his siblings were allowed to go home only during summer months. He later attended the University of Alaska, where he obtained formal artistic training.
To learn more about this exhibition or to book a guided tour, please visit www.artgalleryofalgoma.com/abrahamanghikruben.
You can also visit www.abrahamruben.com to view more of his collection.
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