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Annie Pootoogook

annie pootoogook, annie pootoogook art
Annie Pootoogook May 11, 1969 – September 19, 2016 was a Canadian Inuk artist known for her pen and coloured pencil drawings In her art, Pootoogook often portrayed the experiences of those who lived in her community of Cape Dorset Kinngait, in Northern Canada and occurrences that she herself experienced


  • 1 Early life and education
  • 2 Artistic career
    • 21 Subject matter
    • 22 Style
    • 23 Dr Phil
  • 3 Recognition and awards
    • 31 Collections
  • 4 Death
  • 5 References

Early life and education

Annie Pootoogook was born on May 11, 1969 in Cape Dorset Kinngait, Canada Pootoogook grew up in a middle-class family whose wealth came primarily from their artistic practices Her family worked in multiple mediums and styles and Pootoogook became interested in art at an early age Her mother Napachie Pootoogook was an Inuk draftswoman and her father Eegyvudluk Pootoogook was a printmaker and stone sculptor Pootoogook was the granddaughter of Pitseolak Ashoona a renowned graphic artist, the niece of printmaker Kananginak Pootoogook and the cousin of draftswoman Shuvinai Ashoona

Artistic career

Pootoogook began making art in 1997 at the age of 28 She worked with the West Baffin Eskimo Co-operative previously known as Kinngait Studios in Cape Dorset, Nunavut In her early career with the Co-operative she was not given any artistic freedom

The 2000s were Pootoogook's most productive years It was between 2001 and 2007 that Pootoogook was the most prolific in her art making She worked as an independent artist during this period, leaving the West Baffin Eskimo Co-operative in 2001 During this time, she drew intimate home interior scenes depicting alcoholism, violence, and domestic abuse, the everyday experiences of a women living in the Canadian North, the hardships faced by Northern communities, and the impact of technology on traditional Inuit life Pootoogook solidified her style and content during this period beginning to draw images that could be easily attributed to her She created over 1000 works on paper and it was during this time that she began to be recognized as an artist outside of the Inuit community

Pootoogook had a small exhibition in 2003 at The Feheley Art Gallery This was her first solo exhibition and was important for her career because it made her name more widely known

Subject matter

Pootoogook was known for her drawings created in pen and coloured pencils that depict contemporary Inuit life Inuit life and experiences influenced her career immensely, providing her with the subject matter that she would later render Her work primarily focused on three subject types: the everyday experiences of women living in the Canadian North, the hardships faced by Northern communities and the impact of technology on traditional Inuit life In addition, her work often juxtaposes intimate home interior scenes with scenes of alcoholism, violence, and domestic abuse – lessening the safety of the home

Her work is largely inspired by her mother Napachie Pootoogook and her grandmother Pitseolak Ashoona, both of whom are well known Inuit artists Like her mother and grandmother, Pootoogook worked in the Inuit tradition of sulijuk which means “it is true” This means that she depicted life as she saw it without adding too much of her hand into the composition

Pootoogook is noted for titling her work for exactly what they depict, eg “Man Abusing his Partner”, where a man is shown abusing his wife


Pootoogook's compositions utilized simple line drawings with figures posed in frontal or profile views Her interior scenes line up with the picture plane, yet have simple perspective that does not rely on trueness to nature Her images tend to have large expanses of white space and her colour schemes are often muted, lacking vibrancy Her work has been described as "rudimentary"' and "child-like" as it does not maintain any realism of form or space

Pootoogook often included clocks in her work which has made them a motif that is associated with her work and allows for easy attribution Her work captures a moment in time which is an important theme to Pootoogook It is unknown why time plays an important role in Pootoogook’s work Nevertheless, the clock motif has been agreed upon by scholars to be artistically important to her work

Pootoogook’s compositions are not reproducible which acts against traditional printmaking practices of Inuit art in which copies are made to be sold and dispersed Therefore, her work is not as widely represented as there is only one original copy of each work

Dr Phil

Annie Pootoogook's most notable work is Dr Phil, which shows a young girl watching the American television show by the same name in her home in Kinngait, Nunavut This composition is an archetypal drawing by Pootoogook which shows the influence of Western technology on Northern communities It also includes the clock motif, and appears in a similar style to Pootoogook’s other works Pootoogook’s use of a popular television personality made this composition well-liked in its own right Traditionally, Inuit art often shows typical activities of Northern communities such as hunting, fishing and spiritual gatherings Her use of non-traditional imagery appeals to contemporary art collectors who often are not interested in traditional Inuit art or practices of living

Recognition and awards

Pootoogook had her first major solo exhibition in 2006 when her work was displayed as part of a well-received show at The Power Plant in Toronto, Ontario The exhibition, designed by Nancy Campbell, focused on mythology, Inuit communities and difficulties of life in the Arctic

In November 2006 she won the Sobey Art Award and was granted the prize of $50,000 CDN The Sobey Award is granted to an artist who is 39 years of age or younger and has shown their work in a public or commercial gallery in Canada in the past 18 months, at the time of their application The press release announcing Pootoogook's win noted that "her work reflects both the current moment of a specific tradition and of a contemporary drawing practice"

After winning the Sobey Award she continued to receive exposure She exhibited in major art shows such as the Biennale de Montreal, Art Basel and Documenta 12 Pootoogook was the first Inuit artist to participate in Documenta – an exhibition of contemporary art held in Kassel, Germany

From 2009 to 2010 her work was shown in solo exhibitions at multiple galleries including the Agnes Etherington Art Centre Kingston, Ontario, the National Museum of the American Indian Washington, DC and the George Gustav Heye Centre Manhattan, New York In 2010 her work was also exhibited at the Biennale of Sydney

Pootoogook participated in one her last exhibitions in 2012 at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art Curated by Denise Markonish, the exhibition titled Oh, Canada, showcased 62 Canadian artists including the work of Pootoogook's cousin Shuvinai Ashoona Pootoogook was the only professional artist from the Ottawa region represented in the exhibition


Annie Pootoogook is represented by the small Toronto gallery, Feheley Fine Arts They are the gallery primarily responsible for cataloguing and selling her work

Annie Pootoogook’s art began to be widely collected by Canadian art institutions in 2006 after she won The Sobey Award The Art Gallery of Ontario Toronto, Ontario, The National Gallery of Canada Ottawa, Ontario, and Feheley Fine Arts Toronto, Ontario all hold significant collections of Pootoogook’s work


Pootoogook was found dead in the Rideau River in Ottawa on September 19, 2016

Her body was sent back to Cape Dorset where a funeral was held in her home village The service was performed entirely in her native language of Inuktitut Pootoogook’s youngest daughter was able to go the funeral and this was the first time she met her extended Inuit family

After her death, the lead investigator on the case, Sergeant Chris Hrnchair posted online comments that were condemned and labelled as racist An investigation into Hrnchair’s conduct was undertaken as a result In November 2016, Hrnchair pled guilty to two counts of discreditable conduct under the Police Services Act, and for making comments on an open investigation

In 2017, Hrnchair met with Veldon Coburn an Anishnaabe scholar who had initially documented Hrnchair's original online comments with a screen capture Coburn filed a complaint leading to the charges against Hrnchair and his demotion Wanting to apologize for his comments, Hrnchair asked for a meeting with Coburn stating "I'm blessed to be able to see you, to apologize to your face because I know how much it's hurt your community and the people you love" Coburn stated that he was moved by the gesture and believed that Hrnchair was sincere in his remorse


  1. ^ a b c Milroy, Sarah 23 September 2016 "Inuit artist Annie Pootoogook's work revealed the connections between us" The Globe and Mail Retrieved 20 April 2017 
  2. ^ a b c d Bingham, Russell 17 December 2013 "Annie Pootoogook" The Canadian Encyclopedia 
  3. ^ Off, Carol 26 September 2016 "Stereotypes plagued Inuk artist Annie Pootoogook in life as in death, says gallerist" CBC Radio Retrieved 20 April 2017 
  4. ^ a b c "Annie Pootoogook" feheleyfineartscom Feheley Fine Arts Retrieved 20 April 2017 
  5. ^ a b c d Everett-Green, Robert; Galloway, Gloria 1 October 2016 "Annie Pootoogook: A life too short, built on creativity but marred by despair" The Globe and Mail Retrieved 20 April 2017 
  6. ^ Adams, James 15 August 2012 "A revolutionary Inuit artist's life imitates her art, darkly" The Globe and Mail Retrieved 20 April 2017 
  7. ^ a b "Inuit artist Pootoogook wins $50,000 Sobey Art Award" CBC News 7 November 2006 Retrieved 20 April 2017 
  8. ^ "Cape Dorset artist gets prestigious invitation to German art show" CBC News 2 November 2006 Retrieved 20 April 2017 
  9. ^ Balzer, David 2011 "Shuvinai Ashoona" The Believer November/December Retrieved 10 March 2015 
  10. ^ Tousley, Nancy "Oh, Canada: National Dreams" Canadian Art Retrieved 10 March 2015 
  11. ^ Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art; Markonish, Denise 2012 Oh, Canada: Contemporary art from north North America Cambridge, MA: MIT Press ISBN 9780262018357 
  12. ^ "Inuk artist Annie Pootoogook found dead in Ottawa" CBC News 23 September 2016 Retrieved 5 March 2017 
  13. ^ "Police officer pleads guilty to making racist comments about dead Inuk artist" CBC News 1 November 2016 Retrieved 20 April 2017 
  14. ^ "'I want to understand': Ottawa police sergeant openly apologizes for racist comments" CBC Radio April 20, 2017 

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