Puvirnituq, Quebec, Canada
Thomassiapik Sivuarapik was born on June 11, 1941 in a small camp about ten miles south of Puvirnituq. He lived there with his wife Lizzie, also an accomplished carver, and their four children. Two men who had particular influence on Thomassiapik’s artistic development were his father, Charlie Sivuarapik, and his uncle, Isah Qumalu Sivuarapi. Both of these well-known carvers encouraged Thomassiapik from an early age to translate into stone, the various animal and figurative images in his mind’s eye. Charlie was an instrumental force in establishing the Povungnituk Sculptors Society; Thomassiapik continued this family tradition of community leadership by acting as a spokesperson for such important issues as establishing a hospital in the region, and the James Bay Agreement.
Preferring to carve outdoors in his spacious light-filled tent, Thomassiapik reveals his intimate knowledge of animal anatomy by his adherence to precise detail. He is frequently frustrated by the poor quality of stone available, and consequently, devotes many hours on hard-to-work areas in order to attain the desired highly-polished surface. Thomassiapik also incorporates other materials such as antler, bone, and small inlays of ivory into his carvings. His individual pieces are as rich in texture as is his range of subject matter, which includes bears, birds, otters, seals, walrus, Inuit women and occasionally subjects from mythology; the latter are usually variations on the legends of giants. Thomassiapik’s carvings depict the old ways of his culture, the realities of living in the northern environment, and things learned directly from his experience as a hunter. In 1967, Thomassiapik was chosen by the local cooperative to represent the sculptors of Puvirnituq at Expo ‘67 in Montreal; he demonstrated carving techniques for four months in the Canadian Pavilion. He has been down south several times since that time. On one trip in May 1978, Thomassiapik had the unique opportunity to meet the last surviving member of the Group of Seven, A.J.Casson.
Thomassiapik is the brother of artists Simiuni and Akinsie Sivuarapik.
G. Mainprize & P. Brooks, interview with artist, Puvirnituq, September 1981. M. Myers, interview with artist, May 1985.