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.