Reflecting on the importance of the work of Inuit artist Pitseolak Ashoona and of her 1971 illustrated autobiography titled Pictures Out of My Life, Inuusira, which means “my life,” features new work by Tarralik Duffy in dialogue with Ashoona’s prints and drawings from the gallery’s collection. Pitseolak created more than 8,000 drawings over her 20 year career, meticulously documenting details of everyday life as she experienced it as a record for future generations.
Published in both English and Inuktitut syllabics, Dorothy Eber’s book featured on its cover Pitseolak’s In summer there were always very big mosquitoes, created using coloured felt-tip pen. Bringing together vivid images like this with edited interviews, the book offered exceptional access to glimpses of everyday life in creative form as well as to the thoughts and ideas of an Inuit artist – with a profound impact for both Duffy and the exhibition’s curator, Taqralik Partridge, as children. Inspired by these images of a genuine “popular” culture in the sense of “of the people”, Duffy’s work is similarly infused with references to everyday objects and materials, visually capturing the juxtaposition of traditional and contemporary cultural influences experienced by the Inuit.
In Conversation: Tarralik Duffy and Taqralik Partridge
On Thursday, January 27, 2022, we were joined by artist Tarralik Duffy and curator Taqralik Partridge in conversation as they discuss the Art Gallery of Guelph’s exhibition ᐃᓅᓯᕋ | Inuusira, focusing on the influence of the work of Pitseolak Ashoona and her 1971 illustrated autobiography titled Pictures out of my life. Pitseolak created more than 8,000 drawings over her 20 year career, meticulously documenting details of everyday life in the North that would have a profound impact for both Duffy and Partridge. Inspired by the publication, Inuusira, which means “my life,” features new work by Tarralik Duffy in dialogue with Pitseolak’s prints and drawings from the gallery’s collection, capturing an evolving Inuk-inflected popular culture.
Image detail: Tarralik Duffy, Quickstop, 2021, pencil crayon on paper, 27.9 x 35.6 cm. Courtesy of the artist
Organized by the Art Gallery of Guelph with the support of Canadian Heritage (Museums Assistance Program), Canada Council for the Arts, and the Ontario Arts Council.
About the artists
Tarralik Duffy is a multidisciplinary artist and writer who lives and works between Salliq (Coral Harbour), Nunavut, and Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Spanning jewelry and apparel to graphic works, Tarralik’s creative practice highlights distinctly Inuit experiences, referencing inherited traditions that include Inuit syllabics and materials salvaged from her home territory of Nunavut such as beluga vertebrae, baleen, antler, and seal skin, as well as elements of contemporary culture. She has been a 2021 artist-in-residence with the Art Gallery of Guelph.
Pitseolak was born in 1904 on Nottingham Island in the Hudson Straights and spent her childhood in several camps on the south Baffin coast. With Ashoona, she would have 17 children; raising the family on her own after his death, she would settle permanently in Cape Dorset in the early 1960s. Pitseolak was among the first in Cape Dorset to begin drawing, and the most prolific. She was elected a member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts in 1974 and appointed a member to the Order of Canada in 1977. Her work can be found in numerous public and private collections across Canada and the United States, including significant collections at the National Gallery of Canada, Art Gallery of Ontario, and Winnipeg Art Gallery.
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