Canadian Geographic


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

- 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.”

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