Annie Pootoogook’s Drawings of contemporary Inuit life


The Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian is exhibiting 39 drawings "that chronicle the realities of contemporary Inuit life by renowned artist Annie Pootoogook." It open on June 13.

Pootoogook’s detailed work describes everyday life in her home community of Cape Dorset, Nunavut. Her scenes of Inuit traditions include the less romantic but real integration of modern technologies such as video games and televisions as well as domestic abuse and tragedy. Her method, carefully outlined shapes in black filled with blocks of solid color, recalls traditional Inuit drawing while the subject matter reflects the unvarnished viewpoint of her generation. Other drawings are more personal and abstract, illustrating an emotional landscape of mental anguish, such as “Sadness and Relief for My Brother,” and the austere but compelling, still life of the artist’s prescription- medicine bottle, cup and a single dangling key in “Composition (Annie’s Tylenol).” Cheerful domestic scenes such as a family opening Christmas presents (“Christmas”) are depicted with the same precision and calm attention to detail as the emotion-laden composition “Memory of My Life: Breaking Bottles.”
Annie Pootoogook’s Drawings of contemporary Inuit life


  1. I saw these drawings at the Mendel gallery in Saskatoon some time ago – they’re very beautiful, well worth seeing.

  2. I don’t see an explanation for the drawing above, but it appears to be a poignant illustration of the unintended consequences of global warming, as the brave Inuit battles the Giant Mole People emerging from the thawing permafrost with only the contents of his recycling bin.

  3. I really like her style and how she expresses life as an Inuit.

    I work with Native Americans and Alaska Natives for a living and have been for 3 years now. Our company TDR (Tribal Data Resources) has been working for Natives since 1982.

    My boss/owner has told me some very interesting stories in his 25+ years of working as a survey/grant writer… If only he could draw what he has seen in those many years.

    We’ve probably worked with their tribe/clan before.

    There are dark sides to each Tribe and their reservation :(

  4. There is such a great need for all people to tell their own story, pictures or words. even people from the same family tell a story differently.

  5. @#3

    It’s unlikely you would have worked with her people working out of Alaska- the Cape Dorset people live on Baffin Island, hundreds of miles from the USA in any direction.

  6. CLEMOH @5: Ahem!

    That’d be kilometers! It’s Canada, eh!
    And that’d be thousands of kilometers, not hundreds of miles.

    It’s a more than 1,000 km flight from Iqaluit to Quaqtaq, then another 2,000 to Wabush, then another 2,000+ to Quebec city. Then Annie could rent a car and drive the 4,997 km to Redding, CA.

    Total distance: more than 10,000 km.

    From The Arrogant Worms’ “Canada’s Really Big”
    When you get down to it, you find out what the truth is,
    It isn’t what you do with it, it’s the size that counts
    We’re larger than Malaysia, almost as big as Asia,
    We’re bigger than Australia and it’s a continent!

  7. @#8

    Sorry eh! Always trying to keep the boss happy- if I posted in Metric only you would have known what I was trying to imply;)


  8. CLEMOH:

    No prob. I know what it’s like working for someone who’s brain can only handle up to three digit numbers…

  9. (Just finished my comment and so it deserves a header – long rambling and possibly with a point :))

    Guess I’ll have to have a look at more of her work. The one’s I’ve quickly looked at do nothing for me. They look very much like ordinary early high school drawings to me.

    Does anyone here know anything about her work?

    I’m curious about the comment above:

    “Her method, carefully outlined shapes in black filled with blocks of solid color, recalls traditional Inuit drawing…”

    makes me a little curious, but having read many such comments as ‘recalls’ or ‘reminiscent of’ or ‘draws upon’ (which is one of my favourites) about other artists’ work, I’m a little jaded by the claims made (in general, that is).

    Here’s a good one. I was once dating an art critic (heaps of free tickets to almost anything from movies to galleries :))))

    We were in Canberra (national capital of Australia). I have a post grad research degree is sociology and was having a laugh at some of the ‘post-modern’ claims of some of the artists at an exhibition at the National Gallery (they had no grasp of the subject matter and their commentaries, attached to the wall next to the works) were frequently just gobbledygook.

    The exhibition was called something like “Art in the time of AIDS. My g/f then points out an installation and tells me she had seen it some months earlier, exactly the same, with no changes. This time it had a different name and description (and suitably vague post-modern commentary).

    During undergrad I studied some art (history and theory) at Uni (we had to do a variety of subjects ‘unrelated’ to our major/s) so I developed a more nuanced appreciation of art than I had previously.

    I guess my very rambling point is that while I’m not taken by the style, I’m curious about the work and it’s cultural importance and was wondering if anyone had any general points or comments related to this that would contextualise the work by Ms Pootoogook?

  10. The Pootoogook’s are an important family of Inuit artists. Her mother, brother, father and possibly grandfather and grandmother (i can’t remember) have gotten attention for their soapstone carvings, paintings, drawings and cloth arts which are always directly relevant to the era in which they were created rather than creating forms and scenes representing “classical” and strictly traditional forms.

    I can’t find any pictures to show of her brothers carvings but they are fantastic. They are often traditional figures and animals that dance todays youth dance, the break or street dance.

    This family creates for creation rather than tourist trade. A nice change up here in Canada.

  11. @PADRAIG Her works follow a similar style to older Cape Dorset artists like Pitseolak Ashoona (probably my favourite artist and (wow and thanks Wiki!) Annie Pootoogook’s grandmother) and Pudlo Pudlat. The wikipedia entry for Cape Dorset has some further context.

  12. Another significant Artistic practice among Inuit would be printmaking. I think a lot of the drawings lend themselves to printmaking in the style and construction of the drawings. I imagine this is something that is reenforced my the teachers who recognize the financial benefit of making prints of drawings rather than the drawings themselves.

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