Monday, March 25, 2013

Drawing of My Tent

Napachie Pootoogook  "Drawing of My Tent" 1982  Cape Dorset Collection 

Napachie Pootoogook (1938-2002) was born on Baffin Island, in the Northwest Territories of Canada into an artistic family. She was the only surviving daughter of the highly acclaimed Inuit artist, Pitseolak Ashuna, and several of Pootoogook's brothers also became artists. In the 1950's Pootoogook married Eeegyvukluk Pootoogook, who became a printer at the Dorset Studios. The Dorset studios,  was an establishment founded in 1957, on Baffin Island, by a graphic artist who wished to encourage the local Inuit stone carvers to translate their skill to stone block printing. The program was supposedly modeled after the Japanese ukiyo-e woodblock workshops and was envisioned as a way for the local residents to earn some more money, as well as to support their already flourishing artistic culture. This print cooperative has proved to be enormously successful. Napatchie Pootoogook had begun drawing with her mother, but now her drawings began to be expanded by the medium of printmaking.

Pootoogook's earliest works reflect her delight in the traditional Inuit spirit world, but from about the 1970's onwards the focus of her work began to change. She became more interested in recording the everyday village life around her. Of this piece "Drawing of My Tent" Pootoogook has said, "When I make my drawings I try to make [them] look good. This scene depicts someone doing some drawing, posing for someone to take a picture." (p.149, Inuit Women Artists, 1996, Odette Leroux et. al.)

Pootoogook was the mother of eleven children, including the well-known contemporary artist Annie Pootoogook, and was highly respected in her community as both an accomplished artist and as someone who knew "the old ways." She experienced many hard times, and spoke openly but not bitterly about the dark side of life. Not all of her children survived to adulthood. One of her most horrifying experiences was as a young mother in a tent out on the land, having to singlehandedly fight off a polar bear who was attempting to snatch her youngest child. It was a prolonged attack, after several hours she managed to run it off by pouring gasoline on its face. Pootoogook was also known to be a talented throat singer, and was in great demand as a performer and also a teacher of this traditional Inuit singing technique. Her artwork is in many major collections and museums in Canada and also abroad.


Marianne Malone said...

Delightful - thank you for introducing her!

Nancy Bea Miller said...

I've become temporarily obsessed with Inuit women's art. The more I read the more kind of "thunderstruck" I become. It's sort of like falling down a long tunnel you didn't know existed...