Eskimo and Inuit Art from the Collection of Thomas G. Fowler

Abraham Anghik Ruben (b. 1950) Passage of Spirits (detail). Calcite, caribou antler, musk ox horn, and cotton fiber. 2007.21.292

Yua, Spirit of the Arctic: Eskimo and Inuit Art from the Collection of Thomas G. Fowler, a new permanent installation in the Art of the Americas gallery, presents a selection of objects donated to the Museums from the estate of the late Thomas G. Fowler (1943–2006). During his lifetime, Mr. Fowler, a multitalented artist, designer, collector, and businessman, made many trips to Alaska and amassed a comprehensive collection of such rarity and scope that is unique in the Western United States.

The word yua means spirit or soul. Its prominence in the title reflects the widely shared Eskimo/Inuit concept that all living things in the natural world, even inanimate objects, possess a spirit or a soul that must be honored. This inaugural installation includes nearly 100 objects from approximately 300 B.C. to the contemporary era, representing both the aesthetic and the utilitarian sensibility of Arctic life. Objects include charms, figures, baskets, bowls, tools, pipes, boxes, snuff containers, snow goggles, kayak models, cribbage boards, animal carvings, dolls, and stone sculptures in a variety of materials, such as ivory, whalebone, walrus tusk, sea mammal intestine, wood, fiber, and stone.