Nominated by Pat Feheley, Feheley Fine Arts
I am extremely pleased to nominate Kenojuak Ashevak for this year’s Artistic Achievement Award. Now entering her 80th year, Kenojuak has had a career in the arts that has spanned almost half a century. She has gained both national and international recognition as an innovator of Inuit arts, and her work has been exhibited in museums worldwide.
Kenojuak’s career began in the late 1950s as part of a generation of Inuit who were encouraged to settle in the newly developing northern communities. The introduction of social programs to settlements like Cape Dorset included fledgling artistic programs set up to support the promotion of Inuit art and artists. Once approached, Kenojuak produced startlingly innovative graphic images. Her talent was quickly recognized. She was soon invited to participate in the new Cape Dorset print collection, to be released annually. In 1960, Enchanted Owl became the Inuit print image in the public eye. In just a short while Kenojuak was able to establish herself as a leading Canadian artist and the very medium in which she was working.
In 1962, Kenojuak was featured in a National Film Board production, “Eskimo Artist-Kenojuak.” Since that time, her graphic images have become increasingly widespread and her iconic image chosen to be featured on a Canadian stamp. She is a Companion of the Order of Canada, a member of the Royal Canadian Academy, the recipient of two honorary doctorates and an inductee to Canada’s Walk of Fame. Two monographs have been published about her and her work. Her sculpture, drawings and prints are found in all major Canadian collections as well as international museums such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
Kenojuak has successfully worked in all three media (drawing, prints and sculpture), and in 2004 was commissioned to design a stained glass window for the chapel at Appleby college. This was a first for an Inuit artist, and the resulting window has achieved recognition as a significant work of art. Already in her late 70s, Kenojuak undertook this commission, designing for a medium of which she had no prior experience. During production, Kenojuak chose to complete the full-scale drawing herself rather than allowing it to be made from a projection image. Kenojuak’s determination and commitment to the arts are truly unwavering.
Kenojuak’s images remain extremely personal, defying the expectation that many Inuit and Aboriginal artists are in danger of falling into; her art does not merely reflect her culture, rather it reflects her own vision and imagination. Her fresh style and approach result in images that are testaments to her graphic talent and exquisite use of colour. In many ways, we have come to expect these fantastical – and fantastically coloured – images from Kenojuak, but while her images are easily identifiable, Kenojuak is constantly experimenting and producing images that are uniquely her own.
Perhaps one of the most well-known Canadian artists, Kenojuak’s gracious and generous personality endear her to all those around her. A world traveler, she has represented Canada at exhibitions and openings throughout Europe and the Far East. Her artistic abilities and her unfailing dedication to her talent would make her an excellent addition to the ever-growing list of esteemed laureates of the Governor General’s Awards in Visual and Media Arts. I hope that you join me in considering Kenojuak Ashevak to be as deserving of this award as I do.