This print is from the beginning of William Noah’s career as a professional artist and printmaker. The roots of Noah’s mature style can be seen here, in particular in the affinity for strong colours and the so-called “X-ray” style of drawing that Noah would develop during the 1970s. The motif of the wolf man, unique to his graphic work, is inspired by traditional stories he heard as a child. Noah recalls learning that angakkuit (shamans) possessed the ability to both see through surfaces and make their own flesh disappear, becoming invisible.
Wolf Man speaks to the importance of transformation in Inuit worldviews, a quality that has its roots in shamanistic practices. In Inuit art, an animal in human clothing often represents a shaman in the act of shape-shifting. Here, however, Noah illustrated an RCMP officer: the distinctive yellow stripes enclosed in the rectangular shape on the figure’s parka reference the RCMP uniform. RCMP officers were among the first outsiders with whom Inuit had regular and longstanding contact. The work functions as a visual pun and an inside joke for Inuit in the community who sometimes referred to RCMP officers as “wolf men” at the time.