...
 
Jessie Oonark

BACK TO ARTIST LIST
PREV     2 / 3      NEXT
..
◊ VIEW LARGER IMAGE
..
◊ VIEW ALL AS THUMBNAILS

Jessie Oonark
Two Rooms Inside the Iglu, 1982
stencil, 22 x 30 in. (paper)


 
Artist Biography
...
Jessie Oonark was born in 1906 near the Back River, a major estuary in the north-central part of the Northwest Territories (now Nunavut). Named after her paternal grandfather, Oonark (or Una, as she is also called) was a member of the Utkusiksalingmiut, a mainly inland dwelling group of Inuit who depended on fishing and caribou hunting for their survival. Although the Utkusiksalingmiut were already trapping and trading furs with the Hudson’s Bay Company and its competitors at the time of her birth, Oonark grew up in a strongly traditional milieu, mastering such customary arts as the making of clothing from caribou skins. When poor caribou hunting and a deteriorating global market for Arctic fox furs forced the Utkusiksalingmiut to abandon their semi-nomadic lifestyle in the late 1950s, Oonark followed other members of the group to the new settlement of Baker Lake.
...
Oonark made her first drawings in 1959, using art materials supplied to her by Dr. Andrew Macpherson, a biologist with the Canadian Wildlife Service. Her work instantly came to the attention of printmakers in Cape Dorset, who included three prints based on her designs in their 1960 and 1961 print collections. Oonark continued to draw throughout the 1960s, selling images to the local crafts shop in order to support her large family. She also began making embroidered and appliquéd wallhangings, the form for which she would become famous. In 1970, Oonark’s drawings were featured alongside John Pangnark’s sculptures in a two-person exhibition presented by the National Museum of Man (now the Canadian Museum of Civilization). That same year, she had her first solo exhibition at Toronto’s prestigious Isaacs Innuit Gallery. A prolific artist with a legendary capacity for hard work, Oonark contributed more than a hundred images to Baker Lake’s annual collections between 1970 and 1985. Several of Oonark’s children became widely recognized artists as well. Forced by a neurological disorder to stop drawing and sewing in 1979, she continued to be honoured for her life’s work, receiving her Order of Canada in 1984.  One of Canada’s greatest artistic legends, Oonark died in 1985.
...
The majority of Oonark’s compositions draw upon traditional Utkusiksalingmiut culture, both thematically and in terms of their singular formal sensibility. In her textiles and works on paper, Oonark’s visual mode is one that relies heavily on pattern and the expressive use of contoured and straight lines to form semi-decorative images of near-abstract power. Most compositions feature stripe-like sections of contrasting light-and-dark colour, recalling the strong figure-ground contrasts that are a defining feature of traditional caribou clothing design. Oonark’s emphatically formal approach reached its highest expression in the great hieratic wallhangings of the late 1970s and early 1980s, works marked by a complex use of symmetry, bold colour and scale. Her subjects include animals, humans, birds and spirits. Oonark was particularly interested in traditional clothing design, often portraying different regional variations with the knowledge of an expert practitioner. As Peter Millard notes, the image of the woman is predominant in many of Oonark’s iconic compositions: “In drawing after drawing, she is presented with such centrality and power as to suggest majesty rather than domesticity.” Many works feature the distinctive crescent image of the ulu (woman’s knife), presented as a potent symbol of gendered power and status.

 

Selected Press
...
VANCOUVER SUN


Gallery Exhibitions

MODERN VISION: Inuit Masterworks from the 1960s and 1970s
June 23 - July 28, 2012
 
SURREAL: EIGHT ARTISTS IN THE FANTASTICAL TRADITION
October 14 - November 20, 2011
 
PAPER NORTH: Baker Lake Drawings Past and Present
January 10 - February 8, 2009
 
MARION SCOTT AT 30
October 21 - November 26, 2006
 
VISION AND FORM: The Norman Zepp - Judith Varga Collection of Inuit Art
October 18 - November 18, 2003


Selected Other Exhibitions
...
Inuit Modern: The Samuel and Esther Sarick Collection, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto ON, April 2 - August 21, 2011
...

The Power of Dreams, Winnipeg Art Gallery, Winnipeg MB, 2004
...
Power of Thought: The Prints of Jessie Oonark, Marsh Gallery, University of Richmond, Richmond VA, January 11 - February 24, 2002

...
Inuit Imagination: Art and Culture from the Canadian Arctic, Galleria d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Verona IT, 1995
...
Inuit Women: Life and Legend in Art, Winnipeg Art Gallery, Winnipeg MB, 1995-1996

...
Qiviuq: A Legend in Art, Carleton University Art Gallery, Ottawa ON, 1995
...
Qamanittuaq (Where the River Widens): Drawings by Baker Lake Artists, Macdonald Stewart Art Centre, Guelph ON, 1994
...
Jessie Oonark: Selected Works from the Permanent Collection, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa ON, 1993
...
Jessie Oonark: A Retrospective, Winnipeg Art Gallery, Winnipeg MB, 1988
...
The Inuit Amautik: I Like My Hood to Be Full, Winnipeg Art Gallery, Winnipeg MB, 1980

...
Oonark/Pangnark, National Museum of Man, Ottawa ON, 1970


Public Collections
...
Art Gallery of Ontario (Toronto, ON)
Canadian Museum of Civilization (Gatineau, QC)
Heard Museum (Phoenix, AZ)
McMichael Canadian Art Collection (Kleinburg, ON)
Museum of Anthropology (Vancouver, BC)
National Gallery of Canada (Ottawa, ON)
Winnipeg Art Gallery (Winnipeg, MB)


Selected References
...
Jean Blodgett & Marie Bouchard, Jessie Oonark: A Retrospective, Winnipeg: Winnipeg Art Gallery, 1986
...
Marie Bouchard, "Old Master: Oonark," Inuit Art Quarterly, Winter 1987

...
Marie Bouchard, "Jessie Oonark, RCA, OC: Retrospective ," Inuit Art Quarterly, Winter 1987
...
Marion Jackson, Judith Nasby and William Noah, Qamanittuaq (Where the River Widens): Drawings by Baker Lake Artists,
Guelph: Macdonald Stewart Art Centre, 1994.


Gallery Information
...
MARION SCOTT GALLERY
2423 GRANVILLE STREET
VANCOUVER, BC CANADA V6H 3G5
TEL: 604.685.1934
FAX: 604.685.1890
ART@MARIONSCOTTGALLERY.COM

 
© Marion Scott Gallery     Home     Contact     Tel: 604.685.1934