By definition, art works available for sale in the NWT are all contemporary. They are made in our lifetime, and reflect what is happening in our contemporary society. The NWT is unique in that much of its contemporary art is inspired by its rich Aboriginal history using traditional patterns, styles and techniques, while a culturally diverse population brings other genres and styles in the artistic mix.
Modern materials were introduced around the mid-1800s when fur traders brought manufactured goods to their trading posts. Brightly coloured European fabrics, threads and glass beads were eagerly adopted by local women to decorate their tanned hide clothing and accessories. Beads were much easier to use than raw materials from the land and wearing them quickly became a reflection of social standing and wealth.
Today, the NWT boasts a diverse population of artists. Many come from families that have made art a part of their life, and pass their skills and traditions down to their children and grandchildren. Others have simply come to this unique part of Canada to make their home and create their art.
Carvers, storytellers, writers, sculptors and printmakers from the NWT often draw inspiration from their culture’s ancient stories, as well as their own traditional knowledge and personal experience. While other artists find inspiration in the pristine and beautiful natural surroundings of the NWT and express themselves using techniques relatively new to the NWT, such as ceramics, stained glass, illustrations and painting.
Diversity allows artists in the NWT to experiment with both new and old materials and techniques. The result can be seen in a variety of truly unique, one-of-a-kind works that are being created by artists across the territory.