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 Kenojuak Ashevak  (1927 - 2013)

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Lived/Active: Nunavut/Ontario / Canada      Known for: colored pencil drawing, stone carving, stain glass

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Kenojuak is primarily known as Kenojuak Ashevak

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Ad Code: 3
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"Carried Away", lithograph, 22.5" x 30", signed, dated 2007 and numbered 12/50
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Kenojuak Ashevak (AKA: Kenojuak) is a graphic artist, printmaker and sculptor who was born in Ikerrasak camp on southern Baffin Island in Nunavut, Canada. In 1966 she moved about 100 miles to the west to the town of Cape Dorset  (AKA: Kinngait), where she still lives.
Her primary medium is coloured pencil, and stone carved prints.  She has also done soapstone carvings and stained glass.  Even though she is one of Canada's best known a printmakers, she does not make the prints herself, instead, they are prepared by stone cutters and printers from her drawings. She has never been involved in the actual printing.  Her subjects are birds, animals, Inuit life, landscape and fantasy.  However, according to her, the real subject is an exploration of design, colour and texture;  the things that inhabit her drawings are only vehicles for that expression. The style is sophisticated Inuit folk art. Her work is identified by vivid imagination, composition, pattern, bold shapes, bright colours and extravagant plumage, even on the dogs.
She is an untrained artist.  Her late husband, Johnniebo (1923-1972), was also a famous artist who collaborated with her on many projects.  Most well known is the 95 foot mural for the 1970 Osaka Worlds Fair.
In 1974 she was elected to the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts*. In 1982 she was awarded the rank of Companion of the Order of Canada* (C.C.), the very highest Canadian honour for a lifetime of achievement, for her contribution to Inuit culture.  In 1991 she was awarded an honorary Doctorate by Queens University (Kingston, Ontario). In 1992 she was awarded an honorary Doctorate by the University of Toronto.  In 2008 she was awarded The Governor General's Award*, the country's highest honour for Visual Arts.  Her work was also featured on Canadian postage stamps in 1970, 1980 and 1983; and on the 25 cent coin in 1999.
Her work has been exhibited in over 165 solo and group shows in commercial and public galleries since 1959.  Some of the public venues are the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa (1965, 67, 86, and 2002); the McMichael Canadian Art Collection, Kleinburg, Ontario (1983, 86, 91, 94); the Winnipeg Art Gallery, Manitoba (1985, 87, 93, 95); the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (1974); the Canadian Museum of Civilization, Hull, Quebec (1988, 94); the Glenbow Museum, Calgary (1986); the Art Gallery of Ontario (1983, 84, 85, 89); and the Institute of American Indian Arts Museum, Santa Fe (1975).  There have also been exhibitions in Paris (1963, 83); Tokyo (1991); Brussels (1974,94); Williamsburg, Virginia (1993); Anchorage, Alaska (1992) and Jerusalem (1978).
Ashevak's works are in many private, corporate and public collections. Some of the public collections are the National Gallery of Canada (Ottawa); the Art Gallery of Ontario (Toronto); the Royal Ontario Museum (Toronto); the  Canadian Museum of Civilization (Hull, Quebec); the Winnipeg Art Gallery (Manitoba); the McMichael Canadian Art Collection (Kleinburg, Ontario); Tate ( London, England); the Edmonton Art Gallery (Alberta); the  Agnes Etherington Art Centre, Queen's University (Kingston,Ontario); the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts; the Vancouver Art Gallery (B.C.); the Museum of Anthropology, University of British Columbia (Vancouver, BC); the Glenbow Museum (Calgary); the Anchorage Museum of History and Art (Alaska); the Art Gallery of Hamilton (Ontario); the Mendel Art Gallery (Saskatoon); the Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery (Ontario); the Amon Carter Museum of Western Art (Fort Worth, Texas); the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria (B.C.); the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, (Halifax); the Art Gallery of Windsor (Ontario); the Victoria and Albert Museum (London, England) and dozens more. Her stained glass work can be seen in a window for the John Bell Chapel at Appleby College, Oakville, Ontario.
She is listed in A Dictionary of Canadian Artists (1974), by Colin S. MacDonald; in The Collector's Dictionary of Canadian Artists at Auction (2001), by Anthony R. Westbridge and Diana L. Bodnar; in The Canadian Encyclopedia (1985), Hurtig Publishers; in Canadian Who's Who (1996), edited by Elizabeth Lumley; and in Jacques Cattell Press, Who's Who in American Art 15th Edition (1982).
Her work is also illustrated and discussed in Landmarks of Canadian Art (1978), by Peter Mellen;  in The McMichael Canadian Collection (1976), by Paul Duval and Dorothy Harley Eber;  in The History of Canadian Painting (1974), by Barry Lord; in Enjoying Canadian Painting (1976), by Patricia Godsell; in By A Lady (1992), by Maria Tippett;  in Arts of the Eskimo: Prints (1975), edited by Ernst Roch;  in Canadian Art - From its Beginnings to 2000 (2000), by Anne Newlands; in Canadian Native Art (1973), by Nancy - Lou Patterson; and in Women of the North (1992), by Judy Scott Kardosh.  There is also the 1963 Academy Award nominated movie by John Feeny about her titled Eskimo Artist: Kenojuak; and the book  Kenojuak: the life story of an Inuit artist (1999), by Ansgar Walk.

* For more in-depth information about these terms and others, see Glossary http://

Prepared and contributed by M.D. Silverbrooke


This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Following is The New York Times obituary of the artist.

"Kenojuak Ashevak, Artist From the Canadian Arctic, Dies at 85 by Ian Austen, January 12, 2013"

The cause was lung cancer, The Canadian Press news agency reported.

Kenojuak (pronounced ken-OH-jew-ack), as she was universally known, is probably best remembered for The Enchanted Owl, a 1960 print showing an owl with wildly exaggerated feathers and a piercing stare. It became one of Canada's most famous works of art, appearing on a Canadian stamp in 1970 commemorating the centennial of the Northwest Territories.
Like many Inuit, Kenojuak, who developed her art from the embroidery that she learned as a child, lived in one camp after another in eastern Canada's far north well into the 1950s. She and her first husband, Johnniebo Ashevak, also an artist, eventually settled in Cape Dorset on Baffin Island so that their children could go to school.

There she became part of a group of artists receiving guidance from the Canadian government and the Hudson's Bay Company, which hoped to develop arts and crafts in the village. The effort was led by James A. Houston, a Toronto artist and writer who had studied printmaking in Japan. The government had named him area administrator for West Baffin Island and charged him with fostering the production of art to provide an income to the Inuit after their fur trade had declined.

In 1959, prints from the region were sold at a Hudson's Bay Company department store in Winnipeg, Manitoba, in what would become an annual presentation of works. Kenojuak contributed new work until 2012.

Her renown grew after the release in the 1960s of Kenojuak, a film produced by the National Film Board of Canada and nominated for an Academy Award for best short documentary. Commissions followed, and Kenojuak, who spoke only Inuktitut, was invited to travel widely for exhibitions of Inuit art in Germany, the Netherlands, South Korea, Seattle and Ottawa, among other places.

She also collaborated on a mural that was hung in the Canadian Pavilion at Expo '70 in Osaka, Japan. In 1981 her art and life were the focus of a limited edition book, Graphic Arts of the Inuit: Kenojuak.

Kenojuak moved from stone printing into other techniques and eventually added sculpture and stained glass to her work, all in a bold graphic style that favored images of birds.

With Mr. Houston's help, the Cape Dorset artists founded what is now known as the West Baffin Eskimo Co-operative to manage their print making and market their work.

Kenojuak "was very important to the group's success," said Christine Lalonde, the associate curator of indigenous art at the National Gallery of Canada. "She also had an enormous influence on the generations that followed her in Cape Dorset."

Kenojuak — whether she had a surname at birth is not clear; she later took her first husband's — was born on Oct. 3, 1927, in a camp about 90 miles east of Cape Dorset on Baffin Island. Her first husband died in 1972. Two subsequent marriages, to Itigajuaqujaku Pii and Joanasie Igiju, also ended with her husbands' deaths.

A family member said Kenojuak is survived by six children, 37 grandchildren and 21 great-grandchildren.

William B. Ritchie, the studio manager for the cooperative, said that the broad popularity of Kenojuak's work did not escape the notice of her Inuit peers.

"A lot of the other artists embellished their work to look like her's," he said.

During the last months of her life, he said, Kenojuak produced a series of four-by-six-foot drawings from her bed.

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