The book, Annie Pootoogook – Life & Work, outlines her childhood growing up in Kinngait, her development as an artist and her explosion onto the Canadian contemporary art scene in the the 2000s, which included her landmark 2006 solo exhibition at The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery in Toronto and her winning of the Sobey Art Award that same year, a cash prize given annually to a notable Canadian contemporary artist under 40.


The book was authored by Nancy Campbell, a curator and specialist in contemporary Inuit art who knew Pootoogook and also curated her solo Power Plant show.


‘Pootoogook changed the consciousness’

Campbell, who authored a previous book on Pootoogook titled Annie Pootoogook: Cutting Ice, said the ebook project was an opportunity to make Annie Pootoogook’s story accessible to an even wider public, and make sure her struggles with fame and substance abuse until her death at age 47 when she was found drowned in Ottawa’s Rideau River, didn’t overshadow her artistic legacy and the transformative impact she had on the contemporary Canadian art scene.


Annie Pootoogook at the Sobey Art Award 2006 exhibition at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, November 7, 2007. (Denis Bernier/Courtesy Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.)

“There was a lot of tragedy at the end of her life that got written about that sometimes overshadows her story,” Campbell said in a phone interview from Toronto. “That’s not to deny the facts of her life, but by only focusing on them, it takes away from the fact that she was an amazing artist. She was full of wit and humour. She was a real narrator. There’s a lot to celebrate about her life.”


Pootoogook’s winning of the Sobey Art Award was a pivotal moment, not just for the artist, but for the recognition it brought to contemporary Inuit art as whole, Campbell said.

“Here Annie comes, under 40, from a community no one has ever been to, with her small scale drawings and pencil crayons and blowing people’s minds,” Campbell said. “It was so far away from the process and the glam of contemporary art at that time.


“Her winning really opened up the consciousness.”


Annie Pootoogook: Ten key works


Annie Pootoogook, Eating Seal at Home, 2001
Coloured pencil and ink on paper, 51 x 66.5 cm. Collection of John and Joyce Price. (Reproduced with the permission of Dorset Fine Arts)

Eating Seal at Home was singled out in the new Art Canada Institute ebook as one of Annie Pootoogook’s ten key works:


“Annie’s early drawings also introduce us to her iconography,” writes Campbell in her description. “In addition to the television, she includes a light switch, a lamp, and shoes at the door, careful to insert details of the everyday in the interior. These objects of daily life are repeated throughout Annie’s works, and this piece is therefore an important marker of her developing style.”


For the full descriptions of Pootoogook’s other pivotal works, visit the Key Works section of the new ebook.


Bringing Canadian art to everyone
The Pootoogook title is the latest in the Canadian Online Art Book Project, put out by the Art Canada Institute since 2013. The goal of the series was to make Canadian art accessible to everyone from art scholars to high school students, and to anyone curious to find out more about some of the country’s major artists.


Six new titles are released each year. All books in the series are free to download or can be read online and are available in both English and French.


Arctic artists previously featured in ebook series:
Shuvinai Ashoona
Oviloo Tunnillie
Pitseolak Ashoona


Each book follows an interactive structure built around sections including biography, the artist’s ten key works, significance & critical issues, style & technique, sources & resources and which institutions hold the artist’s work. The reader is able to click as deeply into each section as they wish, or skip over parts of less interest.


“We were very conscious about not just taking a traditional print book and putting it online,” Sara Angel, the founder and executive director of Art Institute Canada, said in a phone interview.


Future books planned on northern artists
Angel said museums and curators do an excellent job promoting art in Canada, but that the ebooks are an accessible complement designed to appeal to everyone from art lovers wanting to find more out about a favourite artist, teachers looking for something accessible for the classroom or scholars looking for additional sources and resources.


“If you’re a PhD student in Art, we want you to be able to access these books and not feel like you’re being talked down to, but if you’re a high school student you’ll also understand and they’ll be accessible to you too.”


Angel said there are more Arctic artists planned for future titles as well as titles from many other of Canada’s regions.


“At the beginning, people wondered if we were going to have enough people to write about or if we were going to run out. But here we still are. We’re just getting started and we have so much more to do.”


Read the article as originally published here.


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