“I remember how Inuit used to live, thinking of them back then, my relatives. I also recall
how the clothing was made; that is what I base my drawings on when I draw people.”
Quote from “Kinngait: Riding Light Into the World”, Director: Annette Manguard.
Pitaloosie was born in 1942 on the southwest coast of Baffin Island
near what is now the community of Cape Dorset. She spent her
childhood years in various hospitals in Quebec and Ontario for
treatment of tuberculosis. She learned English during this time, and
recalls the difficulty she experienced in relearning her native language
upon her return to Baffin Island in 1957. She is now one of the few of
her generation who speak both English and Inuktitut fluently.
Pitaloosie began drawing in the early 1960s, and quickly established
herself as a versatile and intelligent graphic artist. Over the years,
she has become a familiar presence in the Kinngait Studios, and her
work has been included in annual print collections since 1968.
Pitaloosie is represented in the 2012 print collection by two images.
Since the late 1960s, Pitaloosie has made frequent trips to southern
Canada to attend exhibitions and conferences. In 1967, she spent
several weeks in Toronto while her husband, the well-known
sculptor Pauta Saila, participated in an International Sculpture
Symposium. Subsequently, she has visited Halifax, Toronto, Ottawa,
Kansas City and Vermont. Her work has been featured in solo
drawing exhibitions, and in 1977, Canada Post issued a stamp
depicting her print, Fisherman’s Dream. Her 1985 lithograph entitled
In the Hills represented the Northwest Territories in the centennial
celebration of the National Parks of Canada. Amnesty International,
the international human rights organization, selected a drawing by
Pitaloosie entitled Mother and Child to use for their 1990 Christmas
card. She was also one of nine featured artists in the acclaimed
exhibition Isumavut: The Artistic Expression of Nine Cape Dorset
Women, which opened at the Canadian Museum of Civilization in
the fall of 1994 and continues to travel to other venues.
Pitaloosie’s husband, Pauta, passed away in Cape Dorset in June of
2009 at the age of 93. In 2004, both she and Pauta were appointed
members of the Royal Canadian Academy of the Arts, in recognition of their life’s work and contributions
to Canadian art.
Cape Dorset Annual Print Collection, 2013. Artist photo: William Ritchie.