Annual Show of Inuit Prints Features Kenojuak Ashevak

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Kenojuak Ashevak in the litho shop in Cape Dorset, 1997. Photo by Ansgar Walk.

Kenojuak Ashevak in the litho shop in Cape Dorset, 1997. Photo by Ansgar Walk.

Only a limited number of Cape Dorset (Nunavut) prints are produced each year. This year’s collection includes 32 works by 11 different artists. Of particular note are the works of Kenojuak Ashevak (1927-2013). Her works make up a quarter of this year’s collection, with prices between $1400 and $1700. This is a significant collection. As Joemee Takpaungaie, Ashevak’s nephew, pointed out, “This is probably the last collection of her work in this collection, so it’s special for us to have her images in the 2013 collection.”

Kenojuak Ashevak: About The Artist

Kenojuak Ashevak is a Canadian national treasure. She is indeed one of the most renowned Inuit artists, a sculptor and a graphic artist, whose work commands prices in the thousands of dollars. As early as 1959, Ashevak’s work was capturing attention of Inuit art lovers. Her print, Rabbit Eating Seaweed (1959), is considered to be an extremely rare image in Inuit art, the work being inspired by a silhouette pattern that the artist had done on a skin pouch. This work was included in the very first catalogued print collection from Cape Dorset in 1959. Ashevak participated in every one of the annual Cape Dorset print collections.

A very prolific artist, Ashevak used images from her life in the North. She was born in Ikirashaz and her early life was spent traveling from one camp site to another on Baffin Island and Arctic Quebec. She married young, following her husband, Johnniebo Ashevak to various camps with their young family.

Ashevak suffered from tuberculosis in her early twenties and, while she was recovering in a hospital in Quebec, two of her children died from eating rotten walrus meat and another died during the influenza epidemic. Following her recovery, Ashevak rejoined her family and they eventually settled in Cape Dorset; they were encouraged to pursue a career as artists, which they both did.

Although a talented sculptor, it is her prints which have garnered considerable attention around the world. Leroux quotes Ashevak as saying, “I never really like to draw to make it real. I can take a picture and draw from it but I don’t.” Her most famous print is Enchanted Owl (1960), an iconic image in Canadian art which became a popular image on a 1970 Canadian postage stamp commemorating the centennial of the Northwest Territories. Her work has been shown around the world, including Expo’70 in Osaka, Japan.



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The Kenijuak Ashevak legacy

Ashevak stopped sculpting when her hands started giving her problems, but she continued working in graphic art until her death in January 2013. She is considered a pioneer of Inuit art. As art gallery curator, Christine Lalonde said, “she was a truly “remarkable artist who stayed true to that very clear idea of beauty that she had already when she was in her 20s.” (CBCNews North Obit) The 2013 edition of the Cape Dorset Inuit Print Collection will be as memorable and historic as was the collection in 1959.

Resources

CBCNews North Obituaries. Inuk artist Kenojuak Ashevak dies at 85. (2013). Accessed October 23, 2013.

Canada House Gallery. Kenojuak Ashevak. (2013). Accessed October 23, 2013.

CBCNews North. Kenojuak Ashevak prints feature in new Cape Dorset collection. (2013). Accessed October 23, 2013.

Leroux, Odette, et al. Inuit Women Artists: Voices from Cape Dorset. (1994). Toronto: Douglas & McIntyre.

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© Copyright 2013 Emily-Jane Hills Orford, All rights Reserved. Written For: Decoded Past

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