This project began with an intention to contribute good will into the world, but as I move more and more into it, I am reminded that one of the things that was a part of me from when I was a little girl, was to go into the stillness, the silence and to sense, listen and feel the presence of God in all things.
The sun, the moon, the stars, the land; the rivers and creeks I walked and listened to, the lakes and oceans I would swim in or watch the ripples and tides, the trees and leaves that whisper in their steadfast presence… everything would connect and fill me somehow.
And, even though I am connecting virtually across Canada’s nation, I can still listen, feel, and sense the spirit of the place… then paint and write the impressions that come. So, now it seems to me that it is not I contributing to the energy, but simply being an interpreter… bringing forth the beauty, power, wisdom, love and grace of our Creator and the LAND-SEA-SKY.
Nunavut Sannginivut—an abstract representation of the newest, largest and northernmost territory of Canada. This place of glaciers, arctic tundra, pristine wilderness and Inuit way of life, where sharing is their strength and most valued ethic, is the true north. Nomadic hunters, respected elders, oral traditions following the ways of the ancestors, praise their provider, the ‘Holy Breather of Life’. Beating drums, ritual chants, live another day to keep the invisible wolf at bay.
Forming most of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago and home to the Inuit for more than a century, Nunavut is a sparsely populated massive territory, its villages and mountains accessible only by boat or plane.
It’s guiding principles include; respecting others, fostering good spirit by being open, welcoming and inclusive, serving and providing for family and/or community, decision making through discussion and consensus, working together for a common cause, respect and care for the land, animals and the environment.
I was challenged at first to foster a connection to Nunavut, perhaps because it is both old and new at the same time. So desolate it appears—so far removed from modern ‘Southern’ life, comforts and values. So far removed from what we know and experience day-to-day, that to cross the bridge into its realms required a willingness to slip into dreaming of another world altogether.
The Inuit arts are haunting, unique and acclaimed, with paintings that impress themselves somehow upon the soul, and music, drumming, dancing, and throat singing that touch the ears with a supernatural flare. It makes you wonder, what do they know, what do they see, what do they dream?
With each painting in this series I seek art native to its land that calls out to me, that tells me something of both the land and its people, and that conveys an energy that reaches inside me, into my blood and bones, into my consciousness and breath. It informs, infuses and prepares me for the painting waiting to come alive.
It was these artworks by James Archibald Houston, a Canadian artist, designer, children’s author and film-maker who played an important role in the recognition of Inuit art, that immediately illuminated my soul and sung a story of the Inuit to me.
“During Arctic winter nights, I ventured alone
On sea ice, Greenland fiords illuminated
By moonlight, cold and pale, harsh shadows
Creeping. Final glimpse of sun, rosy steaks
Below southern horizon, he preferred distant
Shores beyond reach of Viking longships,
Lush vinelands, prosperity, warm imaginings.
Moon and sea ice are sister and brother, one
Rising in silence above stone-house farmsteads,
The other groaning in hummocks at my feet.
Moon and ice interact as siblings do, bickering
Mischief or passing in forced silence. How do
I know this? Ice-brother told me of his moon
Sister, vexing admirations they share.
Summer’s ice-islands frozen hard in place, they
Shed not cascading water nor shine blue-green
At their regal depths. Perpetual winter grip, they
Protested their captivity, echoes heard from fiord
Mountain peaks. Like sleeping seal, I listened
Quietly, Ice Brother recounted songs of ancient
Ages, when wooly beasts fronted this noble land.
Moon Sister witnessed earth’s creation, rock-
Scarring ice sheets stretched across north
Lands, deep-lake forming, boulder crushing,
Animal-ancestors etched in stone-pictures,
Hidden beneath sea-cliffs. “O! Sister, reveal
Your secrets!” I shouted. “Your selfish brother
Thrusts your word-songs deep into sea ice.”
~ Frances Hennessey
A Message from this Painting
Even though the truth is that we live in unity with all of creation, the ‘Holy Breather of Life’, we experience the polarity of faith and doubt, love and fear, right and wrong, black and white. The Inuit way teaches us fluidity, respect, innovation and resourcefulness. Despite the climate changes that have turned the strong Northern winds into turbulent unpredictable Eastern winds transforming the landscape of the arctic tundra and their livelihood, they must adapt. They lead the way in showing us which dragon to feed; how to lead from the soul and not the ego.
Nunavut Sannginivut—Our Land, Our Strength—pristine places, exotic wildlife of beluga, of bowhead, of caribou, of muskox, of polar bear, seal and walrus. Whether by dog sled or snowmobile, by boat, or small aircraft, on cross-country skis or by trekking on foot, respect and care for the land, animals and the environment is the song that sings.