Private page: new and in-progress work.
Fresh Artifacts (2017)
Fresh Artifacts consists of three resin casts taken from a wooden fox stretcher used by Maureen’s father, Eddie Gruben. Renowned as the region’s most successful trapper, he would have as many as 500 traps in a line stretching from Tuktoyaktuk to Baiilie Island (a distance of roughly 200 kms). Eddie Gruben was assigned the number 4 in residential school; throughout his life he marked many of his important possessions with the Roman numeral IV, as has been transferred from his fox stretcher to two of the pieces here. Fresh Artifacts works to preserve not an object itself, but the many complex memories associated with that object. Its translucence suggests vessels capable of both holding and sharing, generously revealing layers of textures, materials, and process. Its paradoxical title and active play with light emphasises that memory is a living phenomenon, bound as closely to the present as to the past. Likewise, the work refers to a spirituality based on experiences of a present, living land and family lineage, rather than on opaque ancient texts, and potential, deferred futures.
Consumed speaks to the immense volume of ‘things’ we manage to gather around us in life, questioning the inscribed social values they bring with them and their cumulative impact on us. Maureen has stitched a wide array of items into transparent, papery segments of beluga whale intestine, which she dried herself according to a traditional process now fallen into disuse. The collected selection includes elastic bands, ear phones, a rosary, a condom, a cut up credit card, matches… a disparate grouping that touches on how thoroughly multiple dimensions of our life are seeded with largely prefabricated objects. This of course has profound implications for our planet and ourselves. Through food chains laced with chemicals and micro-plastics we do, quite literally, consume our massive scale of production. The presence of religious paraphernalia in this collection, in particular, emphasises that our objects are not ideologically passive, either; the things we physically interact with effect us mentally and emotionally. Further to this, Consumed questions perceived mind-body divisions regarding how we process our world and our emotions simply in that everything here is literally held in guts. In this representation of our possibly obsessive accumulations, many of Gruben’s small groupings have a playful quality to them, suggesting a more gentle process of self-reflection, as opposed to judgement.
In Guardian, thick braids of polar bear guard hairs encased in vinyl are bound together and ornamented with red broadcloth and long strings of ric-rac, creating a sculptural kind of fabric, or garment. Its twisting strands are a macro echo of the DNA that is encoded in the individual animal hairs. As such, there is some resonance here of the fact that all we have left of many species is preserved DNA. Guardian’s highly flexible, mobile form can easily be worn, carried, or displayed on a range bodies and surfaces, speaking to an active, transformative process of protection.
These small assemblages confidently combine imagined clinical and ritual elements, both of which, in turn, bear medicinal associations. The substantial test tubes are filled with powdered polar bear bone and sealed with red wax, and have been secured to clear, sharp-edged acrylic blocks using lengths of spun and resin-dipped polar bear fur. A wax seal is, in general, expressly intended to be opened at some point. In their gathered specimen aspect, these pieces seem equally as if they could be waiting to be used in a scientific experiment or a spell, prodding at perceived distinctions and hierarchies between systems of knowledge.