Yua, Spirit of the Arctic: Highlights from the Thomas G. Fowler Collection

By William W. Fitzhugh, Chuna McIntyre, Hillary C. Olcott, David Ruben Piqtoukun, Abraham Anghik Ruben, Susie Silook, and Roslyn Tunis

The Thomas G. Fowler Collection at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco is home to a diverse range of works by indigenous artists from the Arctic, including ivory figurines made by ancient residents of the Bering Strait, nineteenth-century tools and regalia by Yup’ik and Iñupiaq makers, and multimedia sculptures by renowned contemporary Native artists from Alaska and Canada. Featuring such materials as walrus ivory, animal bone, driftwood, and stone, and evoking the natural landscape of their creation, these works of art attest to the Inuit concept of inua—an inner spirit present in all things. Yua: Spirit of the Arctic celebrates this remarkable collection and reveals the incredible creativity of these visionary artists.


William W. Fitzhugh is the director of the Arctic Studies Center and curator of archaeology in the department of anthropology at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.

Chuna McIntyre is a Central Yup’ik artist, performer, and cultural consultant. He is the founder and director of Nunamta (“of our land”) Yup’ik Eskimo Dancers and has worked as an advisor and consultant to museums in the United States and in France.

Hillary C. Olcott is the associate curator of Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

David Ruben Piqtoukun is an Inuvialuit artist who works primarily in stone, antler, bone, and metal. His work has been featured in solo and group exhibitions in the United States and in Canada and has been collected by museums in North America and Europe.

Abraham Anghik Ruben is an Inuvialuit artist of international renown. His work focuses on arts and cultural traditions of Inuit culture, Norse myths and legends, and historical contact.

Susie Silook is a carver, sculptor, and writer of Siberian Yupik, Iñupiaq, and Irish descent. Her work focuses on images of women and elements of the fantastic in Yupik culture.

Roslyn Tunis is an independent scholar with more than thirty years of experience as a curator and educator in museums and galleries in New York and California. Her work focuses on the art and culture of the indigenous people of Alaska and Canada.

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