Janet Nungnik was born in 1954 near Yathkyed Lake in the Kivalliq region of what is now Nunavut. A member of the inland Padlermiut (“people of the willows”), she spent her early years learning the traditional skills and semi-nomadic lifestyle of her people. When she was seven, she was separated from her parents and sent for schooling in Baker Lake to the north (her parents later rejoined her in the growing settlement and former trading post). Thereafter she moved to Churchill and then to Yellowknife and Edmonton in order to complete her education, finally returning to Baker Lake in the early 1970s. She learned to make wallhangings—appliquéd and embroidered works on felt and stroud—by watching and assisting her mother, Martha Tiktak Anautalik, a respected first-generation artist. Another teacher was the great Utkusiksalingmiut artist Jessie Oonark, whom Nungnik knew and assisted during the final years of her life. Nungnik began making her own works on cloth for sale to the southern art market in the late 1980s.
In its outward form and use of material, Nungnik’s work resembles the textile expressions of other women artists from Baker Lake. But whereas her contemporaries typically arrange motifs in patterns on more or less empty grounds, Nungnik most often presents her cut-and-sewn figures against dazzlingly colourful landscapes, which she renders through an inventive abstraction that is contemporary both in conception and sensibility. In some cases she embellishes her images with the addition of glass beads. Her subjects range from stories of supernatural beings she heard as a child growing up on the land (the Caribou Inuit legend of Kiviuq is especially important to her), to personal memories of Inuit life in the years before the transition to permanent year-round settlements. Nungnik has stated that she intends her work as a celebration of the Inuit connection with the land. She has also expressed her hope that, through her work, future generations of Inuit and non-Inuit will learn the importance of respecting the environment and animal life.
Selected Other Exhibitions
Changing Hands: Art Without Reservation 3, Museum of Arts and Design, New York NY,
June 26 - October 21, 2012
In the Shadow of the Midnight Sun: Sámi and Inuit Art 2000 - 2005,
Art Gallery of Hamilton, Hamilton ON, January 14 - May 7, 2006
WORKS ON CLOTH
Jean Blodgett, In the Shadow of the Midnight Sun: Sámi and Inuit Art 2000 - 2005, Hamilton: Art Gallery of Hamilton, 2007