Maureen Gruben is an artist based in Victoria, BC and Tuktoyaktuk, NWT.
About The Work
Maureen Gruben employs an intimate materiality. Through disassembling and re-forming polar bear fur, moose hides, seal skins, gathered kelp, she forges a critical link between threatened arctic lands and communities, and international environmental and human conditions. In many pieces, abstraction of form sits in active tension with the acutely ‘real’ presence of her geographically and culturally embedded mediums. In other works, she addresses the historical persistence of specific forms, as ancestral tools re-emerge in new mediums such as concrete or fiberglass, and at altered scales. Born and raised in Tuktoyaktuk, Gruben spent much of her childhood sewing with her mother, who was a seamstress, and trapping with her father. She has a tacit knowledge of arctic land and the rich but increasingly precarious resources it offers for both survival and creation. Frequently addressing themes such as Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs), melting ice, and the rights of indigenous hunters to maintain their way of life, Gruben’s practice is permeated with activism while at the same time allowing generous room for her materials themselves to speak. While referring explicitly inwards to localised acts of hunting, gathering, communal preparation and sharing—and even to individual animals—her work, equally, extends decisively outwards, exploring new visual languages that offer compelling and often urgent global associations.
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 shows Blink at University of Victoria (2012) and Custom Made at Kamloops Art Gallery (2015), 150 Acts: Art, Activism, Impact at Art Gallery of Guelph (2017-18), and as part of Landmarks/Reperes2017; her first solo show, UNGALAQ (When Stakes Come Loose) opened at Vancouver's grunt gallery in 2017.
maureengruben (at) hotmail.com