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i u a pi pu pa ti tu ta ki ku ka gi gu ga mi mu ma ni nu na si su sa li lu la ji ju ja vi vu va ri ru ra qi qu qa ngi ngu nga lhi lhu lha

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Oviloo Tunnillie, R.C.A.



stone, signed in syllabics

5 x 17 x 3.5 in — 12.7 x 43.2 x 8.9 cm

Private Collection, Toronto, ON

Beginning in the 1970's, the nude female body is a central motif for artist Oviloo Tunnillie. Though she made several experiments with the form, she is widely recognized as the first Inuit sculptor to produce works representing the naked female body. The unorthodoxy of this distinction is largely due to the lack of nudity throughout the Inuit carving tradition, in addition to the systemic suppression of sexuality among Indigenous populations by colonial governments since European Contact.

From 2002 to 2005, Tunnillie lived between Montreal and Toronto. During this time, she produced this remarkable work, Female Torso (2004), in serpentine rock. The work closely follows her trajectory of examining unconventional subject matter, in particularly social taboos such as masturbation or going to the toilet. Yet Female Torso clearly harkens back to classical antiquity and its emphasis on archetypal body types. To this end, Tunnillie draws on the Western art historical canon and merges it with the Inuit cultural tradition. And this veritable collision of two dissimilar cultures unsettles art history’s Eurocentric bias. It also shrewdly positions the Inuit female body as a powerful source of beauty and sexuality.

Though critically underrepresented, Tunnillie remains one of the most uncompromising Inuk artists of her generation.

Matthew Ryan Smith, Ph.D., is the Curator and Head of Collections at Glenhyrst Art Gallery in Brantford, Ontario.

Estimate: $2,000—3,000

Auction Results

Auction Date Auction House Lot # Low Est High Est Sold Price
2020-09-16 Waddington's 25 2,000 3,000 1,800.00

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