“Ungalaq” is an Inuvialuktun word for the west wind. When the west wind comes up, tides rise and as the earth softens, things that are staked to the ground pull lose. Suddenly untethered, dogs run free and smoke houses drift up the beach. It is a period of unpredictability and, ultimately, of re-formation.
Drawing from five bodies of work, this solo exhibition will be the most extensive mounting of Gruben’s work to date. Currently a Victoria based artist, Gruben has developed a strong aesthetic and practice of working with materials linked to her home in the Inuvialuit hamlet of Tuktoyaktuk in the North West Territories and to the Coast Salish territories of Vancouver Island. Her aesthetic practice can be seen as rippling outward from the land itself. She delves deeply into broad issues like climate change in a way that is both eloquent and pared down, pushing viewers to extend their own process of thought and interpretation, and allowing them to feel their way through each gesture of weaving, tufting, encasing, and assembling in her material process. As an Inuvialuit artist her exploration of Indigenous materials variously includes polar bear fur, seal skin and whale intestines in combination with anodized aluminum, pvc, wool and other materials associated with industry. These substances do not function in binary structure of opposing traditional and industrial materiality. Rather, Gruben’s material sense reverberates throughout her choices, conceptually linking her experiences of home to ways in which materials are reused, re-appropriated and reimagined.
Maureen Gruben was born in Tuktoyaktuk, NWT. She studied at Kelowna Okanagan College of Fine Arts (Diploma in Fine Arts, 1990), the Enʼowkin Centre in Penticton (Diploma in Fine Arts and Creative Writing, 2000 and Certificate in Indigenous Political Development & Leadership, 2001), and University of Victoria (BFA, 2012). She has been recognized by Kelownaʼs En’owkin Centre with both their Eliza Jane Maracle Award (1998/99) and their Overall Achievement Award (1999/2000). In 2011 she was awarded the Elizabeth Valentine Prangnell Scholarship Award from the University of Victoria. Gruben has most recently exhibited in the group show Blink at University of Victoria (2012) and Custom Made at Kamloops Art Gallery (2015).