“The sculpture is of my father (Toonoo) carving a bear. I remember him carving when I was young. He liked carving bears. It was 1959, I remember I was ten years old and had just returned from hospital in the south after treatment for tuberculosis. I had been in hospital in 1955, then again from 1957 to 1959. After my third visit to hospital for 6 months in 1965, I sold my first carving. I only started carving seriously when I had my first child in 1970.”
Oviloo is the child of two artists, Sheojuk and Toonoo Tunnillie. She grew up traditionally on the land, but like many Inuit of that era, was hospitalized in the south for tuberculosis. Having watched her father carve, she took an early interest in working in stone and sold her first sculpture in 1965. She says that she really began to carve when she had children, to earn money to buy milk for them. Her works often deal with her memories of the TB wards and the south, as well as larger social concerns, particularly those that affect women. Oviloo also is one of the few Inuit artists to choose the nude as a subject. After thirty years of exhibiting, she is regarded as the most accomplished female carver of her generation. She was elected to the Royal Canadian Academy in 2003.
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