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Pitseolak Ashoona Life & Work by Christine Lalonde

Although the study of Inuit art was in its infancy during her lifetime, there are significant resources on Pitseolak Ashoona, particularly in the form of published oral interviews and records of her exhibition history.


Key Exhibitions

Selected here are exhibitions that presented Pitseolak’s work in a thought-provoking context or reached new or broad audiences outside of the common parameters of Inuit art. Typical for an Inuit artist, her works have been exhibited extensively, continuing into the decades since her death in 1983, while little has been published about her.


Postcard for the 1971 exhibition of Pitseolak’s drawings at the Innuit Gallery in Toronto


Solo Exhibitions

1971

1971, Pitseolak: Print Retrospective 1962–1970, Canadian Handicrafts Guild, Montreal.

September–October 1971, Pitseolak Drawings, Innuit Gallery of Eskimo Art, Toronto.

1975

February 1975, Drawings by Pitseolak, Innuit Gallery of Eskimo Art, Toronto.

1975
–77

1975–77, Pitseolak, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development with Dorset Fine Arts. International tour. Catalogue.

1982

November 1982, Pitseolak: Original Drawings, Houston North Gallery, Lunenburg, Nova Scotia; with the Canadian Book Information Centre, Halifax.

1986

November 1986, Pitseolak Ashoona (1904–1983): An Unusual Life, Ring House Gallery, University of Alberta, Edmonton.

1992

April 1992, Arctic Stories by Pitseolak Ashoona: Graphics from 1962 to 1980, Arctic Artistry, Hastings-on-Hudson, New York.

1996

June 1996, Summer Migration: Drawings from the Late 1960s by Pitseolak Ashoona, Feheley Fine Arts, Toronto.

 1996
–97

November 1996–April 1997, Pitseolak Ashoona: The Joys of Life and Art, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa.



Group Exhibitions

1961

1961, Contemporary Canadian Eskimo Art, Gimpel Fils, London, England.

1963

January–February 1963, Art Eskimo, Galerie de France, Paris.

1967

1967, Inoonoot Eskima: Grafik och Skulptur fran Cape Dorset och Povungnituk, Konstframjandet, Stockholm. Catalogue.

January–February 1967, Cape Dorset: A Decade of Eskimo Prints and Recent Sculpture, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa.

April–May 1967, Carvings and Prints by the Family of Pitseolak, Robertson Galleries, Ottawa.

1971

September–November 1971, Eskimo Carvings and Prints from the Collection of York University, Art Gallery of York University, Downsview, Ontario. Catalogue.

1975

May 1975, Original Drawings by Nine Cape Dorset Women, Gallery of Fine Canadian Crafts, Kingston, Ontario.

1975
–78

1975–78, We Lived by Animals, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, with the Department of External Affairs. International tour.

1976

October–November 1976, Selections from the Toronto-Dominion Collection of Inuit Eskimo Art, National Arts Centre, Ottawa.

1977
–82

January 1977–June 1982, The Inuit Print, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, with the National Museum of Man, Ottawa. Tour.

1978

March–June 1978, The Coming and Going of the Shaman: Eskimo Shamanism and Art, Winnipeg Art Gallery. Catalogue.

1979
–80

July 1979–May 1980, Inuit Art in the 1970s, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, with the Agnes Etherington Art Centre, Kingston, Ontario. Tour.

1979
–81

July 1979–October 1981, Images of the Inuit: From the Simon Fraser Collection, Simon Fraser Gallery, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia. Tour; catalogue.

1980

April–May 1980, The Dorset Group of Four: Drawings and Prints by Kenojuak, Lucy, Parr and Pitseolak, Canadiana Galleries, Edmonton.

July–August 1980, Inuit Graphics from the Collection of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.

August–September 1980, Members of the R.C.A., Canadian National Exhibition Association, Toronto.

August–October 1980, The Inuit Amautik: I Like My Hood to Be Full, Winnipeg Art Gallery.

September–October 1980, The Inuit Sea Goddess, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. Tour.

1981

July–August 1981, Eskimo Games: Graphics and Sculpture, National Gallery of Modern Art, Rome. Catalogue.

September–October 1981, The Jacqui and Morris Shumiatcher Collection of Inuit Art, Norman MacKenzie Art Gallery, University of Regina.

1981
–83

October 1981–February 1983, The Murray and Marguerite Vaughan Inuit Print Collection, Beaverbrook Art Gallery, Fredericton. Tour.

1982

April 1982, Cape Dorset Drawings, Godard Editions, Calgary.

1983

October–November 1983, The Cape Dorset Print, organized by the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development for Rideau Hall, Ottawa.

October–December 1983, Inuit Masterworks: Selections from the Collection of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, McMichael Canadian Art Collection, Kleinburg, Ontario.

1983
–85

May 1983–April 1985, Grasp Tight the Old Ways: Selections from the Klamer Collection of Inuit Art, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto. Tour; catalogue.

November 1983–March 1985, Contemporary Indian and Inuit Art of Canada, organized by the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs for the General Assembly Building, United Nations, New York. Tour.

1984

June–August 1984, Cape Dorset Prints: Twenty-Five Years, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa.

1984
–85

November 1984–February 1985, Stones, Bones, Cloth, and Paper: Inuit Art in Edmonton Collections, Edmonton Art Gallery.

1984
–86

February 1984–June 1986, Arctic Vision: Art of the Canadian Inuit, organized by the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Canadian Arctic Producers. Tour.

1986

May–September 1986, From Drawing to Print: Perceptions and Process in Cape Dorset Art, Glenbow Museum, Calgary.

July–September 1986, Contemporary Inuit Art, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa.

1987

January–February 1987, The Matriarchs: Jessie Oonark, Helen Kalvak, Pitseolak Ashoona, Snow Goose Associates, Seattle.

1987
–88

November 1987–January 1988, Inuitkonst fran Kanada – skulptor och grafik, Millesgarden, Lidingo, Sweden. Catalogue.

December 1987–February 1988, Contemporary Inuit Drawings, Macdonald Stewart Art Centre, Guelph, Ontario. Catalogue.

1988

April 1988, Inuit Images in Transition, Augusta Savage Gallery, University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Catalogue.

November–December 1988, Inuit Women and Their Art: Graphics and Wallhangings, Gallery 210, University of Missouri,   St. Louis.

1988
–91

December 1988–October 1991, In the Shadow of the Sun: Perspectives on Contemporary Native Art in Canada, Canadian Museum of Civilization, Gatineau, Quebec. International tour.

1989

January–April 1989, Cape Dorset Printmaking 1959–1989, McMichael Canadian Art Collection, Kleinburg, Ontario.

June–July 1989, Drawings of the 1960s from Cape Dorset, Feheley Fine Arts, Toronto, with Gimpel Fils, London, England.

June–July 1989, A New Day Dawning: Early Cape Dorset Prints, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Catalogue.

1990

January–September 1990, Arctic Mirror, Canadian Museum of Civilization, Gatineau, Quebec.

1990
–91

November 1990–February 1991, Espaces Inuit, Maison Hamel-Bruneau, Ste-Foy, Quebec.

1991

January 1991, Sojourns to Nunavut: Contemporary Inuit Art from Canada, Bunkamura Art Gallery, Tokyo, presented by University of British Columbia, Museum of Anthropology; and the McMichael Canadian Art Collection, Kleinburg, Ontario.

1991
–92

December 1991–March 1992, In Cape Dorset We Do It This Way: Three Decades of Inuit Printmaking, McMichael Canadian Art Collection, Kleinburg, Ontario. Catalogue.

1992

1992, Women of the North: An Exhibition of Inuit Women of the Canadian Arctic, Marion Scott Gallery, Vancouver.

February–September 1992, Inuit Art: Drawings and Recent Sculpture, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa.

November–December 1992, Original Drawings from Cape Dorset by Lucy, Pitseolak, Kingmeata, Albers Gallery, San Francisco.

February–September 1992, Inuit Art: Drawings and Recent Sculpture, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa.

1993

November–December 1993, Women Who Draw: 30 Years of Graphic Art from the Canadian Arctic, Feheley Fine Arts, Toronto.

1994

July 1994, Arctic Spirit: 35 Years of Canadian Inuit Art, Frye Art Museum, Seattle.

September–October 1994, Kunst van de Inuit Eskimo’s, Gemeentelijk Kunstcentrum, Huis Hellemans, Edegem, Belgium.

September–October 1994, Kunst aus der Arktis, Völkerkundemuseum der Universität Zürich.

1994
–95

May 1994–July 1995, Cape Dorset Revisited, McMichael Canadian Art Collection, Kleinburg, Ontario. Catalogue.

October 1994–September 1995, Isumavut: The Artistic Expression of Nine Cape Dorset Women, Canadian Museum of Civilization, Gatineau, Quebec. International tour.

1995

March–July 1995, Immaginario Inuit Arte e cultura degli esquimesi canadesi, Galleria d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Verona, Italy. Catalogue.

1995
–96

December 1995–March 1996, Imaak Takujavut: The Way We See It: Paintings from Cape Dorset, McMichael Canadian Art Collection, Kleinburg, Ontario. Catalogue.

1999

May–October 1999, Three Women, Three Generations: Drawings by Pitseolak Ashoona, Napatchie Pootoogook and Shuvinai Ashoona, McMichael Canadian Art Collection, Kleinburg, Ontario.

2004
–05

October 2004–May 2005, The Power of Dreams, Winnipeg Art Gallery.

2006

2006, Arctic Spirit: Inuit Art from the Albrecht Collection at the Heard Museum, Heard Museum, Phoenix. Catalogue.

2009

September–November 2009, Sanattiaqsimajut: Inuit Art from the Carleton University Art Gallery Collection, Carleton University Art Gallery, Ottawa. Catalogue.

2011

April–August 2011, Inuit Modern: The Samuel and Esther Sarick Collection, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto. Catalogue.

2011
–12

December 2011–February 2012, Women in Charge, Inuit Contemporary Women Artists, Museo Nazionale Preistorico Etnografico Luigi Pigorini, Rome.

2013

January–April 2013, Creation and Transformation: Defining Moments in Inuit Art, Winnipeg Art Gallery.


Installation view of the exhibition Pitseolak at Simon Fraser Gallery, Vancouver, 1976


Primary Sources

Oral histories are the most important source of information on Pitseolak Ashoona’s life and art. The tapes and transcripts from her interviews with Dorothy Eber that formed the basis for Pitseolak: Pictures Out of My Life (1971), are located in the archives of the Canadian Museum of History, in Gatineau, Quebec. Later interviews with family members by Marion E. Jackson are held by the Aboriginal Art Centre at the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, Ottawa. The Cape Dorset Drawing Archive is the most comprehensive resource for understanding Pitseolak’s artistic development and scope. Since 1959 each annual release of the Cape Dorset prints has been accompanied by an illustrated catalogue through which her prints can be traced. Another crucial resource is the Inuit Artists’ Print Database, which includes the extensive documentation on prints done by Sandra Barz, and can be accessed at the National Gallery of Canada Library and Archives: http://www.gallery.ca/inuit_artists/home.jsp?Lang=EN.

          Archival fonds relating to individual Inuit artists are rare. Artist files remain a principal resource for Pitseolak, including those of other Ashoona family members, which often contain compiled biographical information, exhibition lists and announcements, newspaper clippings, and interview transcripts.


Aboriginal Art Centre, Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, Ottawa

Canadian Museum of History Archives, Gatineau, Quebec

Cape Dorset Drawing Archive, West Baffin Eskimo Co-operative, housed at the
McMichael Canadian Art Collection, Kleinburg, Ontario

Library and Archives Canada, Canadian Eskimo Art Council fonds, Ottawa


National Gallery of Canada Library and Archives, Ottawa

York University, Mobilizing Inuit Cultural Heritage video archives, Toronto



Critical Texts on Pitseolak Ashoona

Texts on Pitseolak Ashoona fall into two main periods: the early 1970s, beginning with Pictures Out of My Life; and the 1980s, following her death.


The first edition of Pitseolak: Pictures Out of My Life, published in 1971, features Pitseolak’s In summer there were always very big mosquitoes, 1970, coloured felt-tip pen, 68.6 x 53.5 cm, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto

Eber, Dorothy Harley, ed. Pictures Out of My Life. Montreal & Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2003. First published 1971 by Design Collaborative Books, Montreal; and Oxford University Press, Toronto.


Eber, Dorothy Harley. “Remembering Pitseolak Ashoona.” Arts and Culture of the North 6, no. 3 (Fall 1983): 436.


Gillmor, Alison. “The Ashoona Family of Cape Dorset.” Inuit Art Quarterly 10, no. 2 (Summer 1995): 38–39.


Goetz, Helga. “An Eskimo Lifetime in Pictures / Ein Eskimo-Leben in Bildern / Une vie d’Esquimau en images.” Graphis 27, no. 157 (1972): 506–12. 


Jackson, Marion E. “The Ashoonas of Cape Dorset: In Touch with Tradition.” North/Nord 29, no. 3 (Fall 1982): 14–18.


Lalonde, Christine. Cross-Cultural Lines of Inquiry: The Drawings of Pitseolak Ashoona. Master’s thesis, Carleton University, Ottawa, 1995.


. “How Can We Understand Inuit Art?” Inuit Art Quarterly 10, no.3 (Fall 1995): 6–14.



Film, Audio, Video

Heczko, Bozenna, dir. Pictures Out of My Life: The Drawings and Recollections of Pitseolak. Montreal: National Film Board of Canada, 2009. 1973. DVD video, partial animation. Originally produced in 1973. 13:09 min.


International Cinemedia Centre. The Way We Live Today, 1975.

 

International Cinemedia Centre. Spirits and Monsters, 1975.



Further Reading

Much has been published on Pitseolak Ashoona in the context of Inuit art history and recently in the context of Inuit women artists. Selected books and articles on Inuit art provide a more general context for understanding the artist.


Bellman, David, ed. Peter Pitseolak (1902 –1973): Inuit Historian of Seekooseelak. Montreal: McCord Museum, 1980. Exhibition catalogue.


Catalogue for the McMichael Canadian Art Collection exhibition Three Women, Three Generations: Drawings by Pitseolak Ashoona, Napatchie Pootoogook and Shuvinai Ashoona, 1999

Berlo, Janet Catherine. “Autobiographical Impulses and Female Identity in the Drawings of Napachie Pootoogook.” Inuit Art Quarterly 8, no. 4 (Winter 1993): 4–12.


. “The Power of the Pencil: Inuit Women in the Graphic Arts.” Inuit Art Quarterly 5, no. 1 (Winter 1990): 16–26.


. “Inuit Women and Graphic Arts: Female Creativity and Its Cultural Context.” Canadian Journal of Native Studies 9, no. 2 (1989): 293–315.


Blodgett, Jean. Three Women, Three Generations: Drawings by Pitseolak Ashoona, Napatchie Pootoogook and Shuvinai Ashoona. Kleinburg, ON: McMichael Canadian Art Collection, 1999. Exhibition catalogue.


. In Cape Dorset We Do It This Way: Three Decades of Inuit Printmaking. Kleinburg, ON: McMichael Canadian Art Collection, 1991. Exhibition catalogue.


. Grasp Tight the Old Ways: Selections from the Klamer Family Collection of Inuit Art. Toronto: Art Gallery of Ontario, 1983.


Boyd Ryan, Leslie, ed. Cape Dorset Prints: A Retrospective; Fifty Years of Printmaking at the Kinngait Studios. San Francisco: Pomegranate, 2007.


Cochran, Bente Roed. “Pitseolak Ashoona: An Unusual Life.” Inuit Art Quarterly 2, no. 2 (Spring 1987): 11–12.


Crandall, Richard C. Inuit Art: A History. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 1999.


Dyck, Sandra, ed. Sanattiaqsimajut: Inuit Art from the Carleton University Art Gallery Collection. With Ingo Hessel. Ottawa: Carleton University Art Gallery, 2009. Exhibition catalogue.


Eber, Dorothy Harley. “Looking for the Artists of Dorset.” Canadian Forum 52, nos. 618/19 (July 1972): 12–16.


. “The History of Graphics in Cape Dorset: Long and Viable.” Canadian Forum 54, no. 649 (March 1975): 29–51.


. “Eskimo Tales.” Natural History 86, no. 8 (October 1977): 126–29.


. When the Whalers Were Up North. Montreal & Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1989.


Goetz, Helga. The Inuit Print. Ottawa: National Museums of Canada, 1977. Exhibition catalogue.


Hessel, Ingo. Arctic Spirit: Inuit Art from the Albrecht Collection at the Heard Museum. Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre, 2006. 


. Inuit Art: An Introduction. Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre, 2002.


Hessel, Ingo, and Sandra Dyck, eds. Sanattiaqsimajut: Inuit Art from the Carleton University Art Gallery Collection, Ottawa: Carleton University Art Gallery, 2009.


Igloliorte, Heather. “By the Book? Early Influences on Inuit Art.” Inuit Art Quarterly 21, no. 2 (Summer 2006): 33–34.


Ipellie, Alootook. “The Colonization of the Arctic.” In Indigena: Contemporary Native Perspectives, edited by Gerald McMaster and Lee-Ann Martin, 39–57. Gatineau: Canadian Museum of Civilization, 1992.


Jackson, Marion E. “Personal versus Cultural Expression in Inuit Prints.” In Print Voice: A Publication on Printmaking and Print Artists, edited by Walter Jule, 21–25. Edmonton: University of Alberta, 1984.


. “Inuit Drawings, More Than Meets the Eye.” American Review of Canadian Studies 17, no. 1 (Spring 1987): 31–40.


Jackson, Marion E., and Judith M. Nasby. Contemporary Inuit Drawings. Guelph, ON: Macdonald Stewart Art Centre, 1987. Exhibition catalogue.


LaBarge, Dorothy. From Drawing to Print: Perception and Process in Cape Dorset Art. Calgary: Glenbow Museum, 1986. Exhibition catalogue.


Lalonde, Christine, with Leslie Boyd Ryan, Douglas Steiner, Kananginak Pootoogook, and Ningeokuluk Teevee. Uuturautiit: Cape Dorset Celebrates 50 Years of Printmaking. Ottawa: National Gallery of Canada, 2009. Exhibition catalogue.


Leroux, Odette, Marion E. Jackson, and Minnie Aodla Freeman, eds. Inuit Women Artists: Voices from Cape Dorset. Gatineau, QC: Canadian Museum of Civilization; Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre, 1994.


Marion Scott Gallery. Women of the North: An Exhibition of Art by Inuit Women of the Canadian Arctic. Vancouver: Marion Scott Gallery, 1992. Exhibition catalogue.


McMaster, Gerald, ed. Inuit Modern: The Samuel and Esther Sarick Collection. With Ingo Hessel. Toronto: Art Gallery of Ontario; Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre, 2011.


National Gallery of Canada. Cape Dorset: A Decade of Eskimo Prints and Recent Sculpture. Ottawa: National Gallery of Canada, 1967. Exhibition catalogue.


Pitseolak, Peter, and Dorothy Harley Eber. People from Our Side: A Life Story with Photographs and Oral Biography. Montreal & Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1993. First published 1975 by Hurtig.


Reeves, John. “The Women Artists of Cape Dorset.” City and Country Home, April 1985, 35–43.


Robertson Galleries. Carving and Prints by the Family of Pitseolak. Ottawa: Robertson Galleries, 1967. Exhibition catalogue.


Ryan, Terrence. “Eskimo Pencil Drawings: A Neglected Art.” Canadian Art 22, no. 1 (January/February 1965), 30–35.


Tiberini, Elvira Stefania. Women in Charge: Inuit Contemporary Women Artists. Rome: Officina Libraria, 2011.


Van Raalte, Sharon. “Inuit Women and their Art.” Communiqué, May 1975, 21–23.


Vorano, Norman, ed. Inuit Prints: Japanese Inspiration; Early Printmaking in the Canadian Arctic. Gatineau: Canadian Museum of Civilization, 2011. Exhibition catalogue.


Wight, Darlene Coward, ed. Creation and Transformation: Defining Moments in Inuit Art. Winnipeg: Winnipeg Art Gallery; Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre, 2012.