Sui­cide Story (be­fore 1992)

Inuit Art Quarterly - - 5 WORKS -

I first en­coun­tered Ak­pali­apik’s Sui­cide Story at the Art Gallery of On­tario. Carved from a mas­sive whale bone, one side of the sculp­ture de­picts an old man’s face—stub­bly beard, puffy cheeks, bushy eye­brows, braided hair, mouth gasp­ing to re­veal im­per­fect teeth, eyes gaz­ing up­ward, his brow deeply fur­rowed. He is flanked by ghosts and em­bry­onic fig­ures. The other side de­picts two other faces—per­haps el­derly women— brack­et­ing a hole in the bone. Their faces are calm but in­tense, con­tain­ing the ex­pe­ri­ence of long lives. In­side the hole is a man sus­pended on a string. He is fall­ing. His face is con­torted and his eyes blinded in hor­ror. A ri­fle bul­let pierces his chest. The women serve as wit­nesses to this mo­ment. Two bear paws grant them the strength needed for their im­mense task. The over­all im­pres­sion, for me, is of a man trapped by an over­whelm­ing sense of soli­tude, unaware of fig­ures both an­cient and un­born, who are present for him in ways that he does not see. It is a deeply mov­ing work of art. The word “em­pa­thy” is sug­ges­tive but seems in­ad­e­quate here. The art­work flows. It slides across dif­fer­ent planes of ex­pe­ri­ence. It al­lows things to ap­pear, which may be in­vis­i­ble dur­ing life’s dark­est mo­ments.

LUIS JA­COB

ART GALLERY OF ON­TARIO, GIFT OF SA­MUEL AND ES­THER SARICK COUR­TESY THE ARTIST

BE­LOW Manasiah Ak­pali­apik (b. 1955 Ikpi­ar­juk) —Sui­cide Stor yBe­fore 1992Whale bone, horn, teeth, baleen and ri­fle car tridge37.4 × 87.4 × 32.2 cm

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