Beautiful Books: Annie Pootoogook

March 15, 2018

Annie Pootoogook was a talented Canadian Inuk artist and glass-ceiling breaker: her Sobey Art Award win in 2006 contributed to the profile of Inuit art in the contemporary Canadian art world and established Annie internationally. Through her drawings, Annie portrayed her own life and the lives of those who lived in her community of Cape Dorset in the North, and are now collected in  Annie Pootoogook: Cutting Ice (Goose Lane Editions). Below Editor Nancy Campbell shares about her friendship with Annie, her stunning art, and her untimely death.

 

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The life and death of Inuit artist Annie Pootoogook (1969–2016) became a national story when her body was recovered from the Rideau River in Ottawa in September 2016. The complexities of her short forty-seven years speak to possibility and heartbreak, issues of truth and reconciliation, the richness of community and the depths of tragedy. Her legacy is her art. Her arresting coloured pencil drawings recording the details of her life have had a significant impact on both the contemporary art of her Inuit community of Kinngait and Canada at large as they depicted a community in transition, one that respects its past and is negotiating its future.

I knew Annie. We worked together as artist and curator primarily in Kinngait, but also in Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, and Calgary between 2004 and 2010. These meetings were immersive and lengthy as I watched her work and as we spoke, shared meals, and sat together. The time I spent with her altered my world view, taught me about the North and the importance of community. Annie was a hard worker who produced hundreds of drawings at the West Baffin Eskimo Co-operative and, later, in Ottawa. She was serious about her art and proud of her accomplishments. She was shy but determined to please.

 

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Bringing Home Food, 2003-2004
McMichael Canadian Art Collection
Copyright © Estate of Annie Pootoogook
Reproduced from Annie Pootoogook: Cutting Ice by permission of Goose Lane Editions

 

 

When I first saw her work, I was captivated by its clarity, astute composition, and honesty. I felt strongly that these drawings should be seen by as many people as possible. Annie was initially known her detailed interiors of houses in Cape Dorset. She would put in a lot of small details: people kicking off their boots, people watching tv, a little vase of flowers, a clock, the light-switches, all of which say, "we don’t live in ice houses anymore." But there is always a nod to traditional lifestyle alongside everything that is now common place. Annie Pootoogook’s candid drawings, both the celebratory and the tragic, made it possible to begin a new conversation that presents art of Inuit in new ways to Canada and the world.

 

Pg 89_L2017.81.2

Man Abusing His Partner, 2002
Collection of John R. and Joyce Price
Copyright © Estate of Annie Pootoogook
Reproduced from Annie Pootoogook: Cutting Ice by permission of Goose Lane Editions.

 

 

 

Pg 50_L2017.81.11(1)

 

Watching Hunting Shows, 2004
Collection of John R. and Joyce Price
Copyright © Estate of Annie Pootoogook
Reproduced from Annie Pootoogook: Cutting Ice by permission of Goose Lane Editions.

 

 

 

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Thanks to Nancy Campbell for sharing these words with us and for Jeff at Goose Lane Editions for making the connection and providing the stunning artwork. For more Beautiful Books, click here.


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