Dr. Nancy Campbell has been a contemporary art curator and writer on contemporary and Inuit art for the past twenty years. She has held positions at the Art Gallery of Ontario, the University of Guelph, the McMichael Canadian Art Collection, and The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery.
Writing a monograph on an artist places a burden of interpretation and understanding on the writer. I knew Annie Pootoogook, and this fact is an essential part of the story told here. Curatorial projects of my own and of others, which I outline in this book, have contributed to the scholarship, interpretation, and reception of Inuit art in Canada, and to the story of Annie’s life.
It was with caution and trepidation that I entered into the complexities of the Indigenous art world and Annie’s own place in it—always aware of my position as a settler from the South. Annie’s biography includes episodes of displacement, and her career as an artist in the North intersected with a series of jarring professional and cultural transformations. With her rise in art world celebrity after her 2006 exhibition which I curated for The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery, she navigated unfamiliar norms of art consumption that proved to be a challenge.
One of the challenges and pleasures of curating is making associations that provoke a new understanding of the work included in an exhibition. In my experience, exhibitions can redirect preconceived ideas about one artist or another. My study of the art of Canadian Inuit has not only led me to see the work of living Inuit artists in a new context but has also allowed me to recontextualize some of the contemporary art I encounter in the South. My interest in the work of Annie Pootoogook began in the early 2000s (I visited Kinngait for the first time in early 2004); I saw something special and unique that was of extreme interest. My curatorial methodology was my own: intuitive, visual, and discursive, but it ultimately resulted in a provocative reconsideration of Inuit art in the present. This book draws on my work as an academic and my doctoral dissertation, entitled Cracking the Glass Ceiling: Contemporary Inuit Drawing, which includes detailed studies of Shuvinai Ashoona and Annie Pootoogook. With this book and with my scholarship, I hope to achieve a reconsideration of what Inuit art tells of the time within which it was created.