JOE TALIRUNILI (1893-1976)
an Ottawa private collection; Waddington’s Dec. 1982, Lot 318
No two women, men or owls carved by the celebrated Puvirnituq artist Joe Talirunili look the same. He obviously prided himself on imbuing each of his human and animal subjects with a distinctive look and personality. We would not be surprised if Talirunili’s carvings of people are in fact portraits. This fine example is relatively large, quite elegant, and truly charming.
One of the most important jobs for a woman in traditional times was collecting water for her camp; this was especially challenging in winter. Inuit women also used skin pails for a variety of purposes including food gathering. Given Talirunili’s penchant for using found materials to fashion implements, it is interesting to note that he carved the woman’s pail from stone. The implement she carries in her other hand is not precisely ulu-shaped, so perhaps it is another utensil; a woman illustrated in Myers’ book (p. 29) carries a pail and a similar paddle-shaped tool.
References: several examples of standing women by Talirunili are reproduced in the landmark monograph by Marybelle Myers, Joe Talirunili: “a grace beyond the reach of art” (FCNQ, 1977).
First Arts: Inuit & First Nations Art Auction www.firstarts.ca