Imagination Takes Shape: Inuit Art from the Robert and Judith Toll Collection
November 18, 2010 - December 4, 2011
This exhibition included 86 works carefully selected from a much larger collection donated to the museum by Robert and Judith Toll in 2009. The prints and carvings were made in the past fifty years by artists living in communities across the Canadian Arctic.
As the title of the exhibit suggests, Inuit artists approach their work with remarkable imagination. A hunter takes on the appearance of the animal he is hunting, individuals who fill a man’s thoughts appear on the page as if they surround him, and on close inspection, dozens of human faces create an igloo, a symbol of family and home. Through these works Inuit artists tell stories about their traditional and changing way of life, capturing every day activities, depicting episodes in myths and legends, and reflecting on their close family and community bonds.
Robert and Judith Toll began purchasing carvings and prints made by Inuit artists from the Canadian Arctic in the 1960s. Over the next forty years they developed a significant collection, unusual for its focus on art from particular communities, especially Baker Lake and Arviat on the west side of Hudson Bay, and on works by multiple generations of artists from specific families. When the Tolls began to look for a suitable home for their collection, they wanted one where the collection would be used for teaching and research as well as shared in public exhibitions.
Funding for the exhibit and its programs was provided by the Friends of Bowdoin College, the Canadian Consulate in Boston, Solis LED Lighting, NY, and the Arctic Museum’s Russell and Janet Doubleday endowment.