Osuituk Ipeelee, Sedna, 1983
5 3/4 x 11 3/4 x 3 in.
Osuitok Ipeelee was the finest and most versatile of the first generation Cape Dorset carvers. It is well known that Osuitok was a great admirer of the female form; among his favourite subjects were young women engaged in a variety of pursuits: fishing, performing chores, and even playing a concertina. In comparison his depictions of the Inuit sea goddess are relatively few, which is surprising given that many other Inuit artists have carved Sedna as a creature with beautiful female attributes. There is however one depiction by Osuitok that is quite similar, a contemporaneous version in light green stone that graced the cover of Alma Houston’s book Inuit Art: An Anthology . Although some of the details differ, the two sculptures are similar in size, pose, and overall look.
Osuitok’s Sea Goddess has the look of a European-style mermaid with a human head, arms and breasts, and a beluga-like lower body. Beautifully balanced on a small base, her gracefully arched body performs a seal-like balletic swoop, while her hands grasp long braids that seem to transform into fronds of seaweed.
1. Alma Houston’s anthology also contains the article “Osuitok Ipeelee” by Jean Blodgett which illustrates the sculpture on page 53.
References: For a similarly posed and styled depiction of the sea goddess by Osuitok from 1983, see Jean Blodgett, “Osuitok Ipeelee” in Alma Houston, ed., Inuit Art: An Anthology, (Winnipeg, Watson & Dwyer, 1987), p. 53 and front cover.