Annie Pootoogook | Life & WorkSeptember 30, 2021
Annie Pootoogook | Life & Work by Nancy G. Campbell
The Art Canada Institute has produced a number of fine books (all readily available at their site) on various artists that have informed and challenged the larger Canadian art world.
Nancy G. Campbell’s “Annie Pootoogook: Life & Work traces the artist’s life from her youth at the West Baffin Eskimo Co-operative’s Kinngait Studios, where she began drawing in 1997, predominantly in ink and crayon, to her death in 2016. The book explores how in addition to depicting scenes of everyday life in the North—including people watching TV, playing cards, shopping, or cooking dinner—Pootoogook depicted such subjects as alcoholism, domestic abuse, food scarcity, and the effects of intergenerational trauma.”
There is a certain bluntness and brutality, at times, to Pootoogook’s scenes. Campbell’s engaging but also rigorous examination of Pootoogook’s life and work (as they were, frankly, one and the same) explores how “the life of Annie Pootoogook (1969–2016) tells an important national story, and her career marks a pivotal shift in the national consciousness around contemporary Inuit art. With a keen eye for detail and fearlessness in representing daily life—the celebratory, the frightening, and the mundane—she captured the attention of Southern audiences. Although imported culture and technologies have dramatically changed Inuit life, the North has also stayed true to tradition: community, food, and language remain sources of Inuit pride. In her drawings, Annie depicted what is still valued and unique in her culture and what is changing rapidly. She had a meteoric rise in the art world that was tragically cut short when she died in 2016.”
I encountered Pootoogook’s work at the Mendel Art Gallery (now the Remai Modern) in Saskatoon in 2009. The simplicity and directness – the truth, both celebratory and unsettling – of her images resonated in that place. From the legacy of residential schools that dotted the prairies, to the Saskatoon police’s starlight tours, to the ongoing shameful dismissal of murdered and missing Indigenous women, Pootoogook – though from Cape Dorset – was very loud, in Saskatchewan, and even posthumously has a power to disrupt our assumptions and ignorance.
More about Pootoogook can be read here.