Piqtoukun, David Ruben (born 1950, Northwest Territories, Canada) Canadian sculptor.
SIGNIFICANT ACHIEVEMENTS In 1980, Piqtoukun was appointed to the Canadian Eskimo Arts Council. In 1988, he was named to the Sculptors Society of Canada. In 1989, his work was shown in Out of Tradition: Abraham Anghik/David Ruben Piqtoukun, an exhibition at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. That same year he was appointed to UNESCO's Canadian Committees for the World Decade of Cultural Development. In 1996, his work was shown in Between Two Worlds: Sculpture by David Ruben Piqtoukun, a solo exhibition at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. In 2003, he erected an inuksuk in St. Petersburg, Russia to honour the city’s 300th anniversary.
CAREER Travelled to Abidjan, Ivory Coast, to teach carving in 1982; later gave classes in Russia, China, the United States, Mexico, and the Dominican Republic. “There are a lot of carvers out there. There are a few who are considered true artists. If you are a true artist, you have to live and breathe it rather than just accommodate the market. Words of wisdom from me: Don’t accommodate the market. Do it because you believe it” (Piqtoukun in Ayre 1994:22).
MEDIUM Sculpture in domestic and imported stone, and materials such as welded steel and Italian crystal alabaster. “Alabaster seems to have the transparency and the inner light of the shamans and the spirits described in the old stories” (Piqtoukun in Wight 1996:19).
THEMES Inuit past and postmodern Western society, residential school experiences, animals, birds, and figures, the sea, and shamanistic iconography: “With the introduction of modern religion, the shaman has slowly disappeared, but they live through the artist in this day and age. Myself and my brother, we are the extensions of that. We are just a tool for somebody else. Some of the sculptures that I create are so powerful – it’s as if they are emitting a life force” (Piqtoukun in Wight 1989:42).
INFLUENCES Travel and home. He says: “The most important and influential inspiration originated at the age of 17 when my parents, Billy and Bertha Ruben, told me these simple travel rules: be honest, be careful, be the best you can at whatever you attempt, but most of all, call home once in a while” (personal communication, in 2008). He added that he was also influenced by early recollections of living a nomadic existence: “[It] has instilled within me a deep and lasting love for the raw and rugged beauty of land and nature, which is often reflected in my work.” About the role oral traditions played, he says: “In 1975, Dr. Allen Gonor of North Battleford, Saskatchewan, persuaded me to start collecting traditional stories from my parents and elders. From these oral traditions, my Inuit roots began to re-establish themselves. From the moment I began to absorb my culture, the direction of my work took an immense leap into Inuit mythology… These simple and beautiful stories are embedded in the work I continually create.”
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