“Born on Victoria Island in the northwest portion of Canada’s Northwest Territories, graphic artist Helen Kalvak lived the traditional migratory life of most early twentieth-century Inuits (Eskimos) for most of her life. Soon after she moved into the settlement of Holman Island in 1960 Kalvak was given the opportunity to draw by Father Henri Tardy, an Oblate missionary who introduced graphic arts to the community. Kalvak made more than 1,800 drawings between 1962 and 1978, of which 154 were made into stencil prints and lithographs issued in the annual Holman Island print editions from 1965 to 1985.
“Kalvak’s childhood training as a shaman informed the artwork she made in her old age, long after her conversion to Christianity. More than most Inuit graphics, her work depicts women in the roles of healer, sorcerer, and transformational figure. ‘Bird Tracks’, ‘Enchantress,’ and ‘Dream’—all from 1973—;represent this theme. Through her prints Kalvak became a well-known Inuit artist. She was elected to membership in the Canadian Royal Academy of Arts in 1975 and was made a member of the Order of Canada in 1979.”
Janet Catherine Berlo in “North American Women Artists of the Twentieth Century: A Biographical Dictionary”, 1995
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