• Feature

10 Pieces of Ursine Ephemera

Feb 24, 2020
by Jessica MacDonald

The giant, furry bodies of polar bears pose a frequent, if intimidating, sight on the Arctic tundra. Their danger as the apex land predator of the region in contrast to their paradoxical potential usefulness as a food exerts an almost palpable pull on the senses, making the bear a powerful symbol captured skillfully by Inuit artists working across a wide array of media.

Here, we explore the many uses to which polar bears have been put by Inuit artists, ranging from art material to cultural trope and even as a tool for introspection.



Maureen Gruben
Waiting for the Shaman (2017) Bones from polar bear paws and resin 22” x 1” Courtesy the artist


Moses Kasarnak
Untitled (n.d.) Embroidery floss and duffel
IAF Archives


Peta Tayara
Polar Bear Container (n.d.) silver, horn (muskox), ivory, baleen and ink 4 × 3 × 2 in.
Courtesy Spirit Wrestler Gallery


Qavavau Manumie
Wildlife Documentary (n.d.) Ink, graphite and coloured pencil on paper 20 x 26 in.
Courtesy Madrona Gallery Reproduced with Permission Dorset Fine Arts


Polar bear skin stretching in Kimmirut (Lake Harbour), NU, in 1988
IAF Archives


Gideon Qauqjuaq
Polar Bear Ring (n.d.) Ivory 1 × 1 × 0.25 in.
Courtesy Spirit Wrestler Gallery


Unidentified Artist
Embroidered handkerchief with polar bear (n.d.) Cotton on Cotton
Courtesy the Peary-Macmillan Arctic Museum, Bowdoin College


Padloo Samayualie
Untitled (Tundra Rock!) (n.d.) Graphite and coloured pencil, 20 x 26 in.
Courtesy Inuit Gallery of Vancouver Reproduced with Permission Dorset Fine Arts


Cark Hank
Baleen Basket (with Polar Bear Cub Finial) (n.d.) Baleen and fossilized ivory 2 × 2 × 2 in.
Courtesy Spirit Wrestler Gallery

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