BILL NA­SO­GALUAK

Inuit Art Quarterly - - COLLECTOR’S CHOICE - Bill Na­so­galuak (b. 1953 Yel­lowknife) Sedna on Cross 2006 Stone and metal 53.8 x 27 x 12 cm Col­lec­tion of Sa­muel and Es­ther Sar­ick Photo Di­eter Hes­sel Es­ther Sar­ick

Ev­ery­one who en­ters our liv­ing room stops and looks in awe at the green stone sculp­ture by Inuit artist

Bill Na­so­galuak ti­tled Sedna on Cross (2006). Also known as The Death of My Cul­ture, the sculp­ture’s strength is in­escapable.

In this work we see a del­i­cate and grace­ful Sedna, the sea god­dess who re­sem­bles a mer­maid, with a gen­tly curled fish tail and long flow­ing hair. Her out­stretched arms are nailed to a cross, re­al­is­ti­cally carved to re­sem­ble wood. The sea god­dess sym­bol­izes the vi­brancy of the Arc­tic wa­ters and is a giver of life. This sculp­ture is a vis­ual de­pic­tion of the de­spair of be­ing caught be­tween two worlds: North and South, an­cient and mod­ern.

My hus­band Sam and I were deeply moved when we first saw it in a Toronto gallery in 2006. The jux­ta­po­si­tion of Sedna, the source of life and food, nailed and suf­fer­ing on the cross is pow­er­ful. This sculp­ture is a rep­re­sen­ta­tion of all the in­jus­tices vis­ited upon Inuit and makes an ar­rest­ing state­ment.

We have other works by Na­so­galuak that also make strong po­lit­i­cal and artis­tic com­ments about the na­ture of con­tem­po­rary Inuit life. Among our favourites is one of a green po­lar bear en­cased in white stone ti­tled Bear Fall­ing Through Rot­ting Ice (Arc­tic Angst) (2006)1 and an­other of a Sedna ly­ing face up over bro­ken oil drums in the wa­ter that is un­ti­tled from 2007. The Tuk­toy­ak­tuk-born sculp­tor doesn’t shy away from the grim re­al­i­ties of life. Th­ese themes ex­tend to an­other un­ti­tled piece from 2009 in our col­lec­tion of a man po­si­tioned in­side a whiskey bot­tle who has com­mit­ted sui­cide by hang­ing.

Sedna on Cross is not the first piece by Na­so­galuak that we are priv­i­leged to own, but it is one of the most com­pelling sculp­tures in our col­lec­tion. The hon­esty and fear­less­ness of his work, com­bined with his tremen­dous artis­tic tal­ent, keeps draw­ing us in. NOTE 1 This work was fea­tured in the spring 2016 is­sue of the Inuit Art Quar­terly (29.1).

Sedna on Cross is not the first piece by Na­so­galuak that we are priv­i­leged to own, but it is one of the most com­pelling sculp­tures in our col­lec­tion.

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