JOE TALIRUNILI (1893-1976)
Estate of Peter Murdoch, Montreal. Murdoch was general manager of La Fédération des coopératives du Nouveau-Québec from 1967-1997
Talirunili’s great obsession with his family’s Migration story is well documented, but if we were to consider the number of works he carved, surely owls would be considered his favourite subject. Marybelle Myers’ delightful 1977 book on the artist illustrates no fewer than fifteen small stone owls. Joe strove to give each one a distinctive personality, and truly no two are exactly the same. Furthermore Joe’s owls look completely unlike owls carved by any other Inuit artist. Whether tall or short, slim or chubby, Talirunili’s owls are most easily recognized for their exaggeratedly large eyes and ear tufts. It should be noted that owls that frequent the Canadian Arctic have very small ear tufts. It could be that Talirunili once saw a southern tufted owl and became obsessed with its strange appearance, much as the Cape Dorset graphic artist Pudlo Pudlat became obsessed with muskoxen.
References: for similar examples of owls by Talirunili see Jean Blodgett, Grasp Tight the Old Ways: Selections from the Klamer Collection of Inuit Art (Art Gallery of Ontario, 1983) p. 210; see also several examples in the landmark monograph by Marybelle Myers, Joe Talirunili: “a grace beyond the reach of art” (FCNQ, 1977).
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