A museum on the water

Sea art: Owner and curator Jim Clark collects and sells Arctic and Inuit art, such as this polished sculpture of a polar bear, from his gallery space in Red Hook.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

An uncanny figurine of a mutant fish-man rests next to a cool stone sculpture of a polar bear.

The strange creatures that straddle the line between sea and shore, man and animal, are unique to Brooklyn’s only Inuit art gallery, located by the piers of Red Hook.

“Transformation pieces are among my favorites,” said Jim Clark, owner and curator of gallery space Look North.

“In Inuit mythology, shamans can transform into animals and animals have the power to turn into other animals.”

The one-of-a-kind artwork is just as special as the gallery’s site. Located on the fourth floor of a residential building shared by Fairway Supermarket, the gallery’s proximity to water provides an almost ethereal art-viewing experience as sunlight reflected off the Hudson River filters into the serene space.

A man familiar with life by the water, Clark developed an interest in Inuit culture while serving as First Mate aboard crab vessels.

Clark opened Look North in 2006 as a means of supporting Arctic culture and contemporary Inuit artists. Mostly everything in the gallery is for sale, save for a gargantuan King Crab that Clark caught himself and mounted. The majority of the collection comes from Canada, although Clark also acquires pieces from Greenland, North America, and Siberia. Clark’s curative sensibilities are both representative and artistic.

“If something doesn’t sell, at least I like it,” said Clark. “I’ve seen Inuit galleries that aren’t much different from gift-shops. I’ve made it a point to represent artists from different regions and to present newer, sophisticated themes.”

A young artist whose works Clark deems important is Annie Pootoogook.

“Pootoogook creates art that address domestic abuse — a huge problem in some communities,” he said. “Conventional Inuit themes lie in the backdrop, but she also brings up topics that manifest from exposure to the West. Her art is an accurate representation of younger generations struggling with two conflicting cultures.”

Clark noted that some of the best artists in the gallery are older and in their 70s.

“The hard thing about their vocation is that carving for so long gets really hard on their hands,” says Clark. “It’s usually older artists who create works steeped in folklore.”

One such piece is a large print depicting “Sedna the Sea Goddess.”

“Inuit myths are kind of brutal!” said Clark. “Sedna and her father were on this small boat when they were hit by a storm. Since the boat couldn’t hold all their weight, father threw daughter overboard. She clung on to the side of the boat, so he took out his knife and cut off her fingers. When Sedna fell into the water, her mutilated fingers turned into porpoises, walruses, and fish.”

Look North [275 Conover Street, Suite 4E, (347) 721–3995, www.looknorthny.com]. Call prior to visit.

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