Maureen Gruben is an impressive installation, performance and textile artist from Tuktuyaaqtuuq (Tuktoyaktuk), Inuvialuit Settlement Region, NT. Gruben’s first introduction into the arts was through sewing with her mother and later working with pelts from trapping with her father. Gruben studied fine arts at Kelowna Okanagan College of Fine Arts at the University of Victoria where she received her BFA. Gruben’s knowledge of arctic land is rich and the admiration she feels for what the land offers for both survival and creation can be felt through her work.
Working primarily with fur, hides, skins and manufactured materials, Gruben forges a link between the land and the communities that live on it in her work, often activating themes around environmentalism, melting ice and Indigenous hunting rights. The organic materials in Gruben’s work are harvested from the community and are often mixed by the artist with manufactured materials such as bubble wrap, Velcro and plastic, resulting in pieces that invoke memory and healing by placing value in a relationship to the land and what it provides . In Stitching My Landscape (2017) Gruben turned 1,000 feet of frozen ocean surrounding Ibyug Pingo (an ice-cored hill part of the Pingo Canadian Landmark) into a large-scale installation and performance work . The piece consists of 111 fishing holes threaded with a 300-metre strip of scarlet red broadcloth creating a zig-zag stitch, puncturing the surface of the icy arctic landscape. Though the piece may seem shocking or even violent upon first glance, with the red cloth evoking imagery of hurt and pain, the stitching can also be read as a stitch or suture, bringing together and securing the two sides. For Gruben this work engages with discussion on land and the importance of the Indigenous hunting practices, specifically the seal which is central to Inuit life as having long sustained northern communities through both nourishment and protection through sealskin clothing .
Gruben has been recognized by Kelownaʼs En’owkin Centre with both their Eliza Jane Maracle Award and their Overall Achievement Award. She was also awarded the Elizabeth Valentine Prangnell Scholarship Award from the University of Victoria. Gruben has exhibited across Canada at institutions such as the Art Gallery of Guelph in Ontario and Grunt Gallery in Vancouver, BC. Gruben has been featured in many publications including the Inuit Art Quarterly.