Mary Mariq Kuutsiq, At the Fishing Weir, 1994, wool duffel, felt, embroidery floss, 37 × 55 1⁄2". From “Nivinngajuliaat from Baker Lake.”

“Nivinngajuliaat from Baker Lake”

Winnipeg Art Gallery

Felt has played a key role in the practices of a number of contemporary artists, from Robert Morris to Rosemarie Trockel. But for indigenous populations in cold climates around the world, this material—made by rolling, beating, and pressing animal hair or flocks of wool into a compact mass—has been essential to survival. In “Nivinngajuliaat from Baker Lake,” an exhibition at the Winnipeg Art Gallery (which hosts the largest collection of Inuit art in the world), a group of fifteen Inuit wall hangings composed primarily of wool felt with embroidery floss stitching manage to imbue this traditionally utilitarian material with boundless aesthetic promise.

Baker Lake is a small hamlet in Canada’s central Nunavut Territory—an area the size of Western Europe with a population of thirty thousand, roughly four-fifths of whom are Inuit. These people have made the territory their home for several

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