An Arctic Legacy
I am attracted to subject matter that has historical depth because it can provide insights into a culture. Learning about the origin of a practice or idea inevitably uncovers many layers of meaning and influence. As the Inuit (or aboriginal) dog is the oldest and the only natural dog in existence, I have only a modicum of knowledge about its past and its influence on Greenland’s culture.
My intent in the Arctic Legacy Portfolio is to portray the essence of the Inuit sled dog as its character is like none other. While watching them at rest and at work in Kangerlussuaq and Ilulissat, Greenland, I was hypnotized by their raw and exhilarating energy. Creating this portfolio challenged me to connect with the past and present the Inuit sled dog in a contemporary time.
The history of Inuit dogs can be traced to the Paleonuit culture (about 2000 BCE) when they accompanied humans across the Bering Strait, eventually migrating to Greenland. Their role, however, was not originally that of a sled dog but of a hunting partner and defender from polar bears. They evolved through environmental adaptation, mainly by natural selection under conditions of free life, and by close interactions with humans.
Today, their role as sled dogs is well established. The feel of the sled being pulled over rock and ice is both chaotic and soothing at the same time. Courses cut through inhospitable terrain with vistas that few people see. It is an experience some say helped to define the Greenlandic identity. As I create my compositions, I reflect on the long and rich tradition of the Inuit dog, and seek ways to reveal it.