Annie Pootoogook (1969-2016)


Drawn from memory, her depictions of contemporary Inuit life were vivid and clearly defined. She gave an astonishing range, richness and immediacy to a long line of Inuit visual production. Her drawings added unnerving, tender, droll, jolting complexities to life in the North.

Annie Pootoogook was a favourite artist when entering contemporary art discourses. I enjoyed speaking of her and included her drawings in art talks over the years. In the “All the World’s a Drawing” talk, her coloured pencil and graphite drawings perfectly illustrated closed-contour, multiple perspective and volume-defining graphic techniques found in Inuit art.

Olex discusses Mother Breastfeeding her Child, 1994 by Annie Pootoogook
In a more recent art talk exploring the artistic gene (“It’s all Relative”), Pootoogook’s familial lineage connected her to renowned Inuk artists Pitseolak Ashoona and Napachie Pootoogook, Annie’s respective grandmother and mother. Cape Dorset was home to Pootoogook’s family and central to the development of Inuit artistic expression. This northern hamlet, today known by its Inuktitut name Kinngait, is considered as Canada’s most artistic community—an Arctic “Florence.”

Earlier this week, Annie Pootoogook came to mind once again. This time, the tone was mournful; recalling her struggles with domestic violence, homelessness and untimely death in Ottawa. The circumstances around her drowning in the Rideau River remain suspicious and inconclusive. She was remembered by hundreds on Parliament Hill two days ago. She will continue to be remembered in art talks in the future.

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