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New on view: ARCTIC ANIMALS, REAL & IMAGINARY -- CANADIAN INUIT PRINTS

 

Contemporary Inuit Life: From Camps to Settlements

The three Inuit printmakers featured in the MSU Museum entry hall grew up “on the land” in traditional small, semi-nomadic camps. In the late 1940s hunting conditions and the fur trade declined. To ameliorate starvation and other concerns, the Canadian government encouraged, even coerced the Inuit to move to designated permanent settlements where health, educational and social services were available.

Printmaking and the Co-operative System

In 1948, to supplement the Inuit’s incomes, the government encouraged production of carvings and textiles for southern markets. The Inuit already were skilled carvers of stone, bone, antler and ivory. And needle skills for making clothes were essential for Arctic conditions. But printmaking was a new medium, one that became a commercial reality in 1959. Early Inuit artists are often referred to by their given names as surnames were not in use until the early 1970s. 

Canadian artist James Houston trained Inuit printmakers, adapting the Japanese ukiyo-e workshop method in which one person draws the image on paper and one or two others produce the print.  For the Inuit, this had the advantage of employing more people and was consistent with their tradition of community cooperation. Houston also helped establish a co-operative system that continues to provide training, studio and marketing support.

Featured artists from Cape Dorset:

KENOJUAK ASHEVAK (b. 1927)

Rabbit Eating Seaweed II, 1999

Etching and aquatint

31 5/16”  x  24” 

MSUM# 2011:118.1

Gift of Dr. Frederick Vincent