Creative by Nature: The Bohan Collection of Inuit Art

AMES — Iowa State University’s University Museums announces the exhibition Creative by Nature featuring the Bohan collection of Inuit art opening on Jan. 17 and running through July 30 at the Brunnier Art Museum, 295 Scheman Building, Ames. Admission is free. Several programs and a reception will be presented in conjunction with this exhibition.

John L. and Ethel Margaret Gillmor Bohan (B.S. Iowa State University 1938) were thoughtful and engaged collectors. Their interest and passion for the art of the Inuit people of South Baffin Island in Arctic Canada is evident in the knowledge and love of this art that was passed along to their children, who generously donated their parent’s collection to University Museums.

“As the daughter of the collectors, John L. and Ethel Margaret Gillmor Bohan, I grew up surrounded by a remarkable collection of Inuit art. Not only did the artwork form a significant part of my upbringing, but their presence throughout the family home deepened my understanding of art and bolstered my decision to become an art historian.” said Ruth Bohan, guest curator and daughter of John and Ethel Bohan

Over the past 40 years, University Museums has built a small holding of Native American fine and decorative arts. With the addition of the Bohan Collection of Inuit Art, that small collection has now almost tripled allowing University Museums the opportunity to address an area of art and culture that has been lacking institutionally.

The exhibition Creative by Nature will let visitors gain an understanding of a life and culture that may seem separate from lives as Iowans, but the reverence for nature and their existence from the land will be recognizable. The spiritual connection to the animals and land which provided for their subsistence is a familiar connection, one that many Iowans feel for the land that has provided them with their own livelihoods. While the skills of the artists in carving, printmaking, and drawing will be obvious and praised, it is this deeper understanding of how our modern culture can recognize our own beliefs and histories in the art of a very different culture that will most benefit visitors to the exhibition.

“The carvings in the collection were created by about fifty different artists, a figure indicative of the large number of carvers active in Cape Dorset and surrounding communities. The small sculptures recall a past closely connected with the land and the sea. At the same time they speak to a desire to preserve traditional Inuit culture.” said Ruth Bohan.

The expansion of the collection of Native American works of art will allow University Museums to better serve the campus and community by allowing the opportunity to experience unique cultural points of view through art. This exhibition is in homage to the Bohan’s and the hope is to inspire visitors to seek out the beauty and spirituality found in the diverse cultures of this world.

The Brunnier Art Museum is located on the second floor of the Scheman Building, 1805 Center Drive, Ames. Admission is free, however there is a suggested donation of $3 per visitor. The Brunnier Art Museum’s regular hours are as follows: Tuesday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday and Sunday from 1-4 p.m. The Brunnier Art Museum is closed on Mondays and University holidays. Parking available north and south of the Scheman Building in the Iowa State Center lots.