She walks with wolves

"I think over again my small adventures/My fears,/Those small ones that seemed so big,/For all the vital things/I had to get and to reach;/And yet there is only one great thing,/The only thing,/To live to see the great day that dawns/And the light that fills the world." ~Anonymous, An Inuit Poem, 19th century.

Qisaruatsiaq, "She walks with wolves"- mixed media portrait

"Qisaruatsiaq" or "She walks with wolves". This is a mixed media portrait on 16" X20" artist canvas panel.

For a long time, this canvas was partially prepared for painting. I had collaged paper and had sketched out a figure, but I had no story. The collaged background just didn't inspire me.

This year, I have been trying to paint more than just faces, and I have challenged myself to tell a story with my paintings, well, at least some of them.

Keeping this in mind, I began to think of stories that are particular to our Inuit in Canada and found one by Saali Arngnaituq published by National Museums of Canada in 1988. I summarized the main ideas that grabbed my imagination.

Before the arrival of white men in this country, the "one who became a wolf" (Qisaruatsiaq) fished to survive and although her sons did try to help her, she was unappreciative. When she didn't catch any fish, she waited until her people were asleep and then she stole from those who had fish.

Qisaruatsiaq built a snow house only for herself even though her sons tried to convince her to live with others.

One day, Qisaruatsiaq simply disappeared. Her sons tracked her footprints for a long time, continuing the search until darkness blanketed the land. Her last tracks showed the footprint of a wolf and of a human.

Having been left to her own devices, she had become a wolf.

In my painting, I decided to show her in a position where she is shielding the wolf from some unseen threat. She appears to be holding him back with her hand.

She has become protectress of the wolves. She has the knowledge of this alien world, the one we fear, and so she is the "light of the world" as in the Inuit poem at the beginning of this post.

I decided to paint her wearing a very filmy, delicate nightgown because the story said she roamed at night looking for fish to steal from others.

But don't let the fine, dainty gown fool you. Her face is determined. Her stance reveals that she is undaunted by her surroundings. Unfazed by the frigid cold of the night, she walks with the wolf, scouting the valley for any imminent danger.

She is one of them now.

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