The Spirit Wrestler Gallery is pleased to announce the fifth installment of our Mini-Masterworks exhibition series. The ongoing joy and challenge of these exhibitions has been to find inspired artworks on a smaller scale from each of the three cultural groups that we represent here at the gallery — Māori of Aotearoa (New Zealand), First Nations of the Pacific Northwest Coast, and Inuit of Alaska and Arctic Canada.
The criteria of small scale, new techniques and directions, rare finds from existing collections, and pieces that capture the spirit of a cross-cultural exhibition, are all considered in the selection for this biennial collection. Over the past decade, we have been rewarded with some exceptional surprises that make each collection fresh and exciting for both us and the viewer.
The Māori collection is always fun because the seeds are planted at a distance and only later, when we open the boxes, do we see the amazing pieces created specifically for this exhibition. Since 1999, we have received incredible support from Aotearoa and are now a destination gallery to see great examples of Māori art. The variety in subject and range of traditional and new materials culturally and visually enriches the collection. We are very fortunate to have so many master artists currently contributing, including Darcy Nicholas, Sandy Adsett, Wi Taepa, Christina Wirihana, and Alex Nathan. We are also pleased to be introducing a few new faces in this miniature collection: Sonia Snowden in weaving, Ian-Wayne Grant in wood, Amorangi Hikuroa in ceramics, and Bevan Taka in glass. We would like to offer a special thank you to June Grant, Todd Couper, Lewis Gardiner, and Rex Homan, who have all gone beyond the call of duty in their support to our gallery.
The Northwest Coast collection is one of our strongest ever, as we have many outstanding new creations, and are also fortunate to be able to include a few older gems from Fred Davis, Primrose Adams, Joe David, Norman Tait and the late Walter Harris. All the traditional mediums are represented here: wood, argillite, weaving, and silver. Each year the bond between the Northwest Coast and Māori artists continues to develop as friendships become stronger. Sometimes a common image or theme appears that allows us to encourage artists to pursue a particular direction — this year it was combs that created a link between the Māori and Northwest collections. The glass comb sculpture by Preston Singletary is a wonderful addition (and his inclusion for the first time in the miniature format). This is even more appropriate given the development of his close Māori friendships that have grown from his support to glassblowing in New Zealand. We are especially pleased to introduce artworks by Nathan Wilson, Dean Hunt, Mitch Adams, and Tom Hunt, who are all contributing to our miniature collection for the first time.
The Inuit collection provides the backbone of this exhibition with a wonderful variety of smaller artworks collected from artists across the Arctic from Alaska in the west to Labrador in the east. The Inuit, traditionally a nomadic people, have always excelled at smaller portable works, often carving small amulets and talisman to protect them from the dangers of wild animals, unpredictable elements, and unwelcome spirits. This Inuit collection, we believe, differs from our previous miniature collections in that it incorporates a powerful shamanic presence from Alaska — the nucleus being built around a series of transformation pieces by Jerry Wongittilin, Bobby Nashookpuk, and Walton Irrigoo. Our Inuit collection continues to evolve with great small works from some very renowned artists like Kenojuak Ashevak, Andrew Miki, Latcholassie Akesuk, Simon Tookoome and Mathew Aqigaaq — many of whom we have never had the opportunity to represent before in our previous miniature exhibitions. We are again very thankful to the ongoing support from Denise Wallace, and two of our favourite artists from Labrador, Billy Gauthier and Michael Massie.
We know there is always an air of expectation as to what new and exciting artworks will be discovered within the collection — and we hope that we do not disappoint you! On behalf of my colleagues at the Spirit Wrestler Gallery, Colin, Derek, Eric and Gary, I invite you to come down to the gallery to view and enjoy this inspired exhibition.