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The Steven Michaan Collection of North American Tribal Art : The Art of the Spirit World : Actic
Wood, 4” Diameter, c.1880 -1900
Inuit Anthropomorphic Face

Little in the arctic universe can be said to have only one meaning, or to embody a single purpose or form.

This small form at first appears, in size and design, to be a seal net float plug, yet it is hollowed completely like a tiny mask, with “eye holes” and tying punctures in the typical locations.

It is smaller, however, than might have been used by a small child, with an indistinct form, vaguely zoomorphic. Could the “eyes” in fact have been guide holes for rope lines, allowing it to be lashed to another piece, now lost, or forming a lid onto some unknown receptacle or net hole?

It is also possible that this piece is fragmentary, having one or more component parts whose absence prevents a clear understanding of the utility of the group. This piece might also simply be ornamental, although such an interpretation is unsupported by comparison to typical pieces.

Delightfully frustrated by attempts to understand how such works may have functioned, we often find ourselves guessing, only to realize that is most likely that all of these interpretations are equally wrong and correct, in that most objects of utility are decoratively carved, and vice versa.