Until June 2014, the Art Gallery of Ontario is running Kenojuak Ashevak: In Memoriam. Ashevak was born in 1927 in an igloo on Baffin Island and died in early January 2013 at home on Cape Dorset at the age of 85, and with her passed an era. She was probably one of the last people alive to have been persuaded by James Houston to abandon traditional crafts to making prints. Houston was the man who put Inuit art on the map, an artist himself, he was painting in the north when he started swapping his work for theirs. The sculpture he brought south with him was impressive enough for the government to send him back up to teach the Inuit how to make prints and so art began to blossom in the north as a way to replace income lost from the fading fur trade.

Editor and publisher Douglas Gibson who knew both Ashevak and Houston described Ashevak as Houston’s star pupil.

She was almost the face of Inuit art for a time. Her print, The Enchanted Owl, 1960, became a Canada Post stamp in 1970, the same year she travelled to the World’s Fair in Osaka. In 1967 she was made a member of the Order of Canada and in 1982 she was made a Companion of the Order of Canada. The Osaka World’s Fair provided her with an international reputation.

Winter 2014

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