insight and inspiration: Kenojuak Ashevak

Born and raised in western Canada, I have been interested in the prints and sculptures created by the Inuit artists of Canada for many years. This documentary about one most revered Inuit artists, Kenojuak Ashevak, was originally only available on the National Film Board of Canada’s website. I was happy to recently discover the 1964 video on YouTube. Hopefully, that means it will be available for many years so others can appreciate the rigors of travel across the snow-covered landscape by dog sled and spending the night in an igloo.

The documentary also shows how Kenojuak’s drawings are carved into stone and printed. Kenojuak Ashevak became the first woman involved with the printmaking co-operative in Cape Dorset. The West Baffin Eskimo Co-operative in Cape Dorset still exists and thrives. In 1978, Dorset Fine Arts was established in Toronto as the wholesale marketing division of the co-operative.

Preening Owl by Kenojuak Ashevak 1995

While I had studied Inuit art and I had seen a lot of work in galleries and museums, I had never met an Inuit artist. Several years ago, the Froelick Gallery hosted one of Cape Dorset’s artists, Saimaiyu Akesuk. I welcomed the rare opportunity to hear a contemporary Inuit artist share the origin and challenges of her artistic process and the details of a very different culture. While Akesuk no longer has to dog sled to the studio, it appears that that she and Kenojuak share a similar visual dialog steeped in their culture.

Counting Birds by Samaiyu Akesuk 2015

****** For those of you interested in following contemporary Inuit artists, Dorset Fine Arts, the wholesale marketing division of the West Baffin Eskimo Co-operative, has an Instagram presence: @dorsetfinearts

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