TUNDRA HORNED LARKS
Limited Edition Bronze
On my canoe trip to the Back River in the sub-arctic of Nunavut in 2016, we spent some time at an amazing archeological site. The Inuit people lived in this harsh land with extreme cold and long dark winters for four thousand years. A long time ago the Inuit found that rocks stood on end, called inukshuks, looked like people to migrating caribou. On this key hill that separated the plains the Inuit constructed hundreds of inukshuks. Some of these have been there for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. Inuit never disturbed an inukshuk.
Seeing this was a highlight of the trip. But it was even better because I saw and photographed horned larks and white-crowned sparrows feeding young that were sitting on the inukshuks. Young life sitting on ancient human structures. It helps clarify our place in the time. Later on the trip a big storm was moving in and I saw a horned lark hopping around the tundra. It had a strange looking growth on its bill. I looked through my binoculars and as I watched the growth got bigger. I was seeing the bird picking up black flies that were hiding in the short tundra vegetation. Protein for the kids before the big storm hit.
So this piece celebrates the history of the inukshuks, and the birds I saw. I wanted a flying adult feeding its young on the granite inukshuk. I included the opening in the wings where molted feathers had fallen out, just like in a picture I had taken. And to have a strong joint between the birds’ bills I included a gob of black flies.
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