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Art from the Arctic

The Menil Collection presents ancient objects in a spectacular all-white display.

Apparently the image was placed here because of Baartman's physical similarities to the Willendorf, but I think it's pretty tasteless. There is no critique or commentary about the image in the brochures. Carpenter is almost 90, and maybe he just doesn't get the inappropriateness of including the image. But if that is some generational holdover, that is one of the only ones.

Clockwise from top: Bird Head, Herring Gull; Head with Central "Eye"; and Female Figure. All are from 250 BC-100 AD.
David Heald
Clockwise from top: Bird Head, Herring Gull; Head with Central "Eye"; and Female Figure. All are from 250 BC-100 AD.

Carpenter has intimate knowledge of the lives and hardships of arctic peoples and describes their way of life with intense perceptiveness and empathy. He tells us that in the Inuktitut language, "to make poetry" is the same as "to breathe." He describes a world where every adult male is a skilled ivory carver and "art and life are interchangeable," of a people navigating though zero-visibility fog using smell and sound. His descriptions of life in these seemingly barren, snowy expanses are incredibly evocative and hauntingly beautiful. Like "Arctic Realities," they offer a poignant and nuanced glimpse into a world most of us could never imagine.

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