Mau­reen Gruben draws at­ten­tion to a rapidly chang­ing Arc­tic with Stitch­ing My Land­scape

Canadian Geographic - - DEPARTMENT­S - By Betty Ann Jor­dan

Us­ing art to draw at­ten­tion to the chang­ing Arc­tic at Pingo Na­tional Land­mark, N.W.T.

I“IT’S A WON­DER­FUL clear­ing of the mind,” says Inu­vialuit artist Mau­reen Gruben, de­scrib­ing the ex­pe­ri­ence of stand­ing atop the Ibyuk Pingo on the shore of the Beaufort Sea near her home­town of Tuk­toy­ak­tuk, N.W.T. “It’s just you, the low, rolling land­scape, the ocean and the sky.” Come April, that vista will in­clude Stitch­ing My Land­scape, Gruben’s con­tri

bu­tion to Land­marks 2017/Repères 2017, a se­ries of 10 col­lab­o­ra­tive na­ture-in­spired art­works in Parks Canada sites across the coun­try that are meant to deepen and crit­i­cally ex­plore the con­nec­tions be­tween Cana­di­ans and the land dur­ing the coun­try’s sesqui­cen­ten­nial year. Gruben’s work will be in Pingo Na­tional Land­mark, a site just west of Tuk­toy­ak­tuk that pro­tects eight ge­o­log­i­cal cu­riosi­ties known as pin­gos, ice-cored con­i­cal hills formed by the up­heaval of per­mafrost. Work­ing with Tuk­toy­ak­tuk res­i­dents and cu­ra­tor Ta­nia Wil­lard, an artist from Bri­tish Columbia’s Secwepemc First Na­tion, Gruben will or­ches­trate the drilling of as many as 100 ice-fish­ing holes along the shore­line. Con­fig­ured in a zigzag ar­ray, each hole will be linked to the next by a red cord, sug­ges­tive of the trim used to em­bel­lish the edges of tra­di­tional

hand­made parkas. Con­di­tions per­mit­ting, Stitch­ing My Land­scape will be in­stalled

from April 24-26. While the use of red cord hon­ours re­gional tex­tile cus­toms, the pat­tern it will cre­ate is meant to un­der­score re­ced­ing sea ice and ac­cel­er­at­ing ero­sion, two byprod­ucts of cli­mate change fac­ing Arc­tic coastal com­mu­ni­ties such as Tuk­toy­ak­tuk. In late Novem­ber 2016, for in­stance, tem­per­a­tures around the ham­let rose 20 C above nor­mal, which led to polar bears roam­ing the en­vi­rons at a time when they tra­di­tion­ally would have been far out on the ice hunt­ing seals. The scarcity of sea ice, in turn, meant that the land was ex­posed to waves and storms for a longer pe­riod of time. “When the west wind is strong, the ocean swells and washes away part of my com­mu­nity,” says Gruben. “Ev­ery year dur­ing these storms, we can wit­ness our land drop into the ocean.” The cu­mu­la­tive ef­fect of this ex­po­sure in Tuk­toy­ak­tuk is prompt­ing some to con­sider re­lo­cat­ing their homes. It is also en­dan­ger­ing the com­mu­nity’s ceme­tery and rais­ing con­cerns among sci­en­tists about how sed­i­ment pro­duced by ero­sion will af­fect ma­rine life. Gruben is keenly aware of her home’s vul­ner­a­bil­ity and knows that Stitch­ing My Land­scape will have her cre­at­ing on the knife-edge of change — but she wouldn’t have it any other way. “I draw in­spi­ra­tion from and am part of the land,” she says, “and that is re­flected in my art.”

A snow­mo­bile heads to­ward Ibyuk Pingo (left), which is near the site of Mau­reen Gruben’s art in­stal­la­tion Stitch­ing My Land­scape.

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