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Swinton, George.

Toronto, McClelland and Stewart, 1987. 235pp, paper, $24.95, ISBN 0-7710-8372-6. CIP

Grades 6 and up
Reviewed by Gary Robertson

Volume 16 Number 3
1988 May

This new paperbound version of the original 1972 book makes this important Canadian art book more accessible to all. George Swinton is a scholar, traveller and gifted writer who has given us both an historical survey and an in-depth study of Inuit sculpture. The most important aspect of this book is the shared insight that Inuit sculpture should be regarded as "art" and not as archaeological artifact. The text is accompanied by 20 colour and 770 black-and-white photographs illustrating both the regional characteristics and the unique visions of each artist.

The writing is divided into sections that describe the varieties of Inuit sculpture, the environment from which it comes, the prehistoric and historic forms, the differences in cultural motivation, and the aesthetics of the new art forms. The author is convinced that Inuit sculpture must stand on its own as art rather than as museum pieces collected from emerging neolithic peoples. Although they live in a harsh climate, the artists live in houses, watch television, eat three meals a day and may do carving as their only daily occupation.

Inuit art is surely in a transitional phase. There will always be carvers who produce solely for the souvenir market, but many carvers will continue to expand their insights into art, develop new skills with the materials, and continue to provide fresh visions and stylistic variety to transcend the cultural and artistic preconceptions we unfortunately have placed on them.

A ninety-seven-page catalogue of the individual artists' work from all major carving areas is followed by a very complete bibliography and index. This large-format book (316 x 245 mm) with strong stitch binding makes it useful for classroom display and handling.

Gary Robertson, Thom Collegiate, Regina, Sask.
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