The Spirit Wrestler Gallery is honoured to host a solo exhibition of the legendary Inuit artist, Kenojuak Ashevak of Cape Dorset.
Kenojuak has achieved international acclaim for her graphics and sculpture, and has become the most revered Inuit artist living today. Her imaginative drawings, prints and sculptures that often depict interwoven birds, have delighted audiences worldwide for over four decades.
Kenojuak, like many of the original Cape Dorset artists, spent most of her early life living on the land in a manner not unlike that of her ancestors. She was born on October 3rd 1927 at the South Baffin Island camp known as Ikirisaq and grew up hunting on the land, moving from camp to camp in South Baffin and Arctic Quebec. In her early years, she lived a traditional life - in an igloo during the winter months and in a haumaq tent in the summer, heated only by a kudlik or stone seal-oil lamp.
As a very young woman, Kenojuak was married to Johnniebo and lived with him in the various camps including Keakto, a scenic area of rolling hills and inland lakes near Cape Dorset where they stayed for many years. While living at Keakto in the late 1950’s, both Kenojuak and Johnniebo first experimented in carving in stone and drawing. They were encouraged by James Houston, the Federal Government’s Administrator for the area, to create drawings and stone carvings to supplement their livelihood. They moved to Cape Dorset in 1966 for their children to attend school and worked closely together as artists until Johnniebo’s untimely death in 1972. Kenojuak still lives in Cape Dorset, now known as Kinngait in Nunavut, working at her home or in the printshop.
Her work has been represented in almost every annual Cape Dorset print collection since 1959, and in many special commissions and projects. Her art has been shown in numerous exhibitions in Canada, the United States and Europe and is also included in many private and public collections around the world. Kenojuak has been elected to the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts, received her appointment to the Order of Canada, named a Companion to the Order of Canada, has had her images displayed on a Canadian coin and three stamps, and over the years has been documented in books and film (see her abbreviated biography). Many honours have been bestowed on her during her life and in 2001 she was inducted into Canada’s ‘Walk of Fame’ in Toronto, the first Inuit artist to be so honoured and joins many other accomplished Canadians.
This is another exciting year in the life of this extraordinary artist, who continues to amaze the world with her limitless imagination, energy and creativity. This solo exhibition is a celebration of her life, reflecting a rare selection of sculpture and a new body of graphic work, including over forty original drawings and two prints.
The focal point of the exhibition is the exclusive release by Spirit Wrestler Gallery of the limited edition Pendleton Blanket titled “Arctic Owl”. It is a unique collaboration between N.W.Pendleton, Spirit Wrestler Gallery and Kenojuak. She becomes the first Inuit artist to produce a design specifically for the production of a blanket with the renowned Pendleton Woollen Mills (est.1863) in Oregon USA. Pendleton has for over a hundred years built a reputation for quality woven products and for producing blankets in collaboration with aboriginal artists that are collected all over the world.
The Spirit Wrestler Gallery is also proud to announce the release of two new exclusive prints, “Owls Treasure” and “Tapestry of Owls”. Kenojuak created six images towards the Pendleton project, three are included as drawings in this exhibition (Interwoven Owl, Woven Birds, Loomed Birds), one became the image for the blanket “Arctic Owl”, and the other two became unique print interpretations. These delightful images continue with the blanket theme and show her strength in design and her use of exuberant colour.
The graphic collection is supported by five wonderful sculptures by Kenojuak. Sculpture has always been a major part of her life but in recent years carving has become more difficult with sculptures being few and far between. This selection has been collected over several years and offers an opportunity to see her imagery captured in stone.
We invite you to attend the exhibition, enjoy this remarkable collection and to meet this great artist. She is truly a living national treasure.
Photo courtesy Bill Richie