An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America
April 19, 2003 - Issue 85
A Family Affair
by Mariam Hill - Nunatsiag News
credits: (Photos Courtesy
of the Guild Shop)
Dorset artist Pitseolak Ashoona loved to draw. Born in 1904, she is one
of the community's most famous early graphic artists.
who passed away in 1983, and four of her family members are being celebrated
in a Toronto art exhibition this month, called Women of the Ashoona Family:
Inuit Print Retrospective.
Tompkins, the Guild Shop's Inuit and native gallery director, says she's
always been interested in families. All the gallery's shows this season
are family oriented.
think it's marvelous," Tompkins says of the interplay between artists
of different generations. "We think of Pitseolak and how she encouraged
her daughter and her sons were wonderful sculptors too and
then there's grandchildren. She encouraged both her daughters-in-law,
Mayoreak and Sorsilitu to draw. One of the things she said to them was,
'You'll have a little income of your own.'"
retrospective includes about 40 pieces from Pitseolak, her daughter Napachie
Pootoogook, granddaughter Suvinai Ashoona, as well as daughters-in-law
Sorosilitu and Mayoreak. There are prints, drawings, lithographs, etchings
and even a few sculptures by Mayoreak.
says her research shows Pitseolak created more than 7,000 drawings and
more than 250 prints.
thought it was over 1,000," Tompkins says. "I've read about
her from various sources and she said something like, 'I don't know how
many drawings I've done, but more than 1,000. There are many Pitseolaks
now, I have signed my name many times.'"
only was she prolific, Pitseolak shared her love of art with those around
said she wanted to keep drawing as long as she could and maybe even after
she was gone," Tompkins says. In effect she has done just that by
encouraging her daughter and other family members to engage in artistic
also preferred to draw alone in her bedroom, something she had in common
with her granddaughter, Suvinai.
granddaughter would like to often lie on her bed on her stomach and not
even have any support under the drawing, just draw away," she says.
says the show, which she refers to as a labour of love, has been in the
works for about a year. She visited Dorset Fine Arts in Toronto, the southern
branch of the West Baffin Cooperative, three times to select the images.
was also looking for a nice balance and good cross section of subject
matter and things that you could tell that each of the women was smiling
when she was drawing," she says.
tried to choose both prints and drawings from each woman, and noted that
the work of each woman is decidedly different.
the early years, Tompkins says, Pitseolak's work was very similar to her
daughter Napachie's. But as time went on Napachie developed a style of
one of Napachie's prints, which is a picture of her holding a drawing
of her tent and she's standing in front of her tent it's delightful,"
style and subject matter is totally different from the others. She does
landscapes that are not necessarily real and some that are almost photographic.
of Tompkins' favourite works is a 1996 print by Mayoreak titled Isumavut.
It shows two loons holding up a piece of paper in front of a walrus.
says she has a theory about the meaning of the print.
was a man who worked in the print shop in Cape Dorset whose name was Walter.
Often people whose name is Walter get a nickname of Walrus, so I think
it's two of the artists showing a proof or something to Walter,"
"Pitseolak would have been 100 years old next year. We look at her things and feel like she's right here, smiling. It's art that makes you feel really good."
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