Mary Longman’s sculptural installations act as poetic symbols of her life experiences to promote deeper readings of Indigenous knowledge, traditions, and cultures. Born in Fort Qu’Appelle, Saskatchewan, and a Saulteaux band member of Gordon First Nation, Longman studied at the Emily Carr College of Art and Design (Dip. FA, 4 year, 1989), the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (MFA, 1993) and the University of Victoria, Victoria, BC (Ph.D. in Art Education, 2006).
Elk Man Waiting For Love was featured in Longman’s solo 2000 exhibition Blood and Stones at the Thunder Bay Art Gallery. Constructed from elk antlers, cast with matrix G, a polymer modified concrete, and painted in a bronze patina, the anthropomorphic elk sits with his head thrown back crying. The sculpture refers to a Saulteaux courting ritual in which a man would play a special flute to woo his intended. A carved elk on the flute signifies the animal’s association with success in courtship.
Elk Man was part of the Gallery’s By Request: Collective Curation of the Permanent Collection exhibition, on until June 3, 2018. The exhibit is the first in the Gallery’s history that features works from the permanent collection chosen by people actively engaged in the region’s arts. Lakehead University Art History Award 2018 winners Vanessa Ervin and Shayla Hickerson chose this particular work based on its evocation of the natural environment.
The Elk Man holds two rocks in his hands tied together with the hair of his lover. His wide-open mouth calls for his loved one to return to him. A sound component accompanies the work emitting intermittent elk calls. The various parts of the work coalesce signaling humanity’s need for love. As Longman herself states, “Love is something that everyone deserves; this is the one thing that is universal and extends through all cultural origins.”