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Kenojuak Ashevak: Life and Legacy

 About the Exhibition

This project, first presented at the Kenojuak Cultural Centre in Cape Dorset, Nunavut, celebrates a lifetime of artistic practice, and is the largest survey of the Kenojuak Ashevak’s creative output ever generated by an organization based in the Canadian Arctic. This show comprises never-before-seen drawings, from the archives of the West Baffin Eskimo Cooperative, that inspired some of Kenojuak’s most emblematic prints in stonecut, lithography, etching – the exhibition contains 31 drawings and three prints. Accompanying these works on paper, the Cape Dorset community has also been invited to contribute personal objects, musings and anecdotes, which further illustrate the significant role that Kenojuak has played in the region. Co-curated by Louisa Parr for the Kenojuak Cultural Centre and William Huffman from the West Baffin Eskimo Cooperative, this exhibition is scheduled for travel to six venues across Canada during a three-year project cycle. A catalogue produced in partnership with Pomegranate Communications will accompany the exhibition.

Several volunteer community leaders in Cape Dorset will assist in travel component of the project, and will be involved in each of the presentations via a CISCO Systems video conferencing unit housed at the Kenojuak Cultural Centre. This connectivity will allow the community of cape Dorset to participate virtually in exhibitions taking place across the country while allowing representatives of partner galleries to interact with delegates from the North. The accompanying publication, in Inuktitut, French, English, will be produced in partnership with Pomegranate Communications. The publisher has a long-standing relationship to Cape Dorset, its artists and is well positioned to distribute the print piece through its extensive network of retail outlets.

The West Baffin Eskimo Cooperative will take a lead role in the navigation and supervision of the travelling program including functioning as logistics manager and venue liaison. The cooperative will activate both its Cape Dorset and Toronto offices to support this initiative. The Kenojuak Cultural Centre will function as community hub allowing for local Cape Dorset stakeholders to maintain connection to this important exhibition program as it travels to national venues. This project is a featured component of the West Baffin Eskimo Cooperative 60th anniversary program.

Photo: Ansgar Walk

Photo: Ansgar Walk

About the Artist

With a career spanning more than five decades, Cape Dorset Inuit artist Kenojuak Ashevak (1927–2013) was part a pioneering generation of Arctic creators. She enjoyed an illustrious international career and continues to be recognized as one of Canada’s preeminent Inuit artists and cultural icons. Since beginning to experiment with drawing in the 1950s, she produced a vast body of work, mainly utilizing graphite, coloured pencils and felt-tip pens on paper. Kenojuak approached her work with a strong creative intuition – her drawings emerged almost unconsciously, a process she would describe as her hand leading her mind. Her idiosyncratic style is easily recognizable, with archetypal drawings that capture images of birds, fish, bears and mystical figures; her aesthetic approach is perhaps the most recognizable of any Canadian artist. Kenojuak’s work exudes a bright vibrant energy with a touch of whimsy, all wrapped in a pure wonder for the natural world. Nearly every Cape Dorset Annual Print Release since 1959 and until her death in 2013, has featured work by Kenojuak. Her images have been exhibited throughout Canada, United States, France, Germany, United Kingdom, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Sweden, South Korea and Japan among other countries. Her work is in numerous public and private collections internationally.

About the Partners

West Baffin Eskimo Cooperative – Established in 1959, the West Baffin Eskimo Cooperative has enjoyed an international reputation for the exquisite prints, drawings and carvings created by its Inuit artist members. In addition to operation of Kinngait Studios in Cape Dorset, the cooperative maintains a Toronto office, Dorset Fine Arts, which is responsible for interfacing with galleries, museums, cultural professionals, Inuit art enthusiasts and the art market globally. The role of West Baffin Eskimo Cooperative includes communications, promotion, advocacy, government relations and special projects as related to the Inuit art of Cape Dorset. The organization maintains meaningful, ongoing relationships with a variety of organizations across Canada, the United States and Europe. In 2016, the West Baffin Eskimo Cooperative launched the Cape Dorset Legacy Project, which is an innovative strategic initiative aimed at strengthening professional capacity within the local artist community while enhancing the Inuit art voice within a broader, international contemporary art discourse. In 2019, the cooperative will celebrate its 60th anniversary with a year-long program of activities.

Kenojuak Cultural Centre – A state-of-the-art new community facility, visitor destination, exhibition space and home to the renowned Kinngait Studios – the venerable institution responsible for the drawings, prints, sculpture that have defined excellence in Inuit art since the 1950s. A groundbreaking partnership between the Municipality of Cape Dorset and West Baffin Eskimo Cooperative, this facility bears the name of legendary Cape Dorset Inuit artist Kenojuak Ashevak. The centre is dedicated to the legacy of art making and to the contribution that generations of Cape Dorset Inuit artists have made to contemporary visual culture. The Kenojuak Cultural Centre will provide services to tourists and other visitors to the Hamlet of Cape Dorset and will promote local art, culture and heritage. Its mission is to establish a vital presence for the culture, art, history, awareness for the enjoyment, benefit of Cape Dorset residents, visitors. This incomparable Arctic treasure officially opened its doors to the public in September 2018.

Kinngait Arts Foundation – Established in 2001, the foundation creates opportunities to support the creative growth of Cape Dorset Inuit artists. The organization provides direct support to enhance the production of artwork by delivering professional development programs in the form of training, workshops, equipment acquisitions, panel discussions and a visiting artists program. The foundation seeds national and international activity, which promotes an awareness of Cape Dorset Inuit art and situates the region’s artists on a broader global stage.The cooperative also undertakes original research

Exhibition Inventory

This exhibition features 31 exquisite drawings and three masterful prints. The inventory represents the creative output of Kenojuak Askevak at the latter part of her career spanning 1994 until her death in 2013.