LUKE IKSIKTAARYUK (1909-1977) QAMANI'TUAQ (BAKER LAKE)
Standing Figure, c. 1973-75
antler, fur, and metal pins, 15 x 8.75 x 7.5 in (38.1 x 22.2 x 19.1 cm)
Estimate: $7,000— $10,000
Private Collection, Toronto.
As Norman Zepp perceptively suggests in his description of an Iksiktaaryuk drum dance scene: "…The success of these configurations is ultimately determined by the strength and beauty of the individual figures, many of which can stand on their own right" . The single standing figures that Iksiktaaryuk did carve, especially the large ones, are in fact marked by their strength and beauty; the finest ones have a commanding presence and an aura of solemn authority. Some of these figures are easily identifiable as shamans; several are depicted flying and some wear amulet belts or even sport tusks.
Standing Figure looks like a straightforward depiction of a "regular" person until we notice the tiny tuft of fur attached to one of the tines of the antler base. While this does not prove that the figure is a shaman it clearly suggests the presence of the supernatural. Perhaps the tuft is the spirit of a bird, or of a small mammal such as a siksik (ground squirrel) or avinngaq (lemming). Standing Figure is one of the largest examples we have seen, and absolutely among the very finest. Iksiktaaryuk's minimalist aesthetic (we might call it his "ascetic aesthetic") shines forth in all its glory. This image of a solitary man is not only pristinely elegant; it is also ecstatic and elegiac. And it is transcendent, universal; we can imagine the man standing in the Negev or the Kalahari or the Arctic tundra. Glorious.
1. Norman Zepp, "Introduction" in Pure Vision (1986), p. 50.
References: For similarly large and elegant examples see Darlene Coward Wight, The Faye and Bert Settler Collection (Winnipeg Art Gallery, 2004) p. 62; Art Gallery of Ontario, The People Within (Toronto: AGO, 1976) cat. 86; and Marion Scott Gallery, Inspiration: Four Decades of Sculpture by Canadian Inuit (Vancouver, 1995), cat. 56. See also Waddington's Auctions, Nov. 2008, Lot 99. For a Bird Shaman in the Peter Millard Collection at the WAG, see Ingo Hessel, Inuit Art: An Introduction (Douglas & McIntyre, 1998) fig. 85. See also the section devoted to Luke Iksiktaaryuk in Norman Zepp, Pure Vision: The Keewatin Spirit (Regina: Norman Mackenzie Art Gallery, 1986), pp. 130-139.