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Elisapee Ishulutaq

Elisapee Ishulutaq, OC (1925–2018) was a celebrated printmaker and graphic artist born at the seasonal camp Kagiqtuqjuaq in the Northwest Territories and later moved to Panniqtuuq (Pangnirtung), NU where she lived and worked. After moving to Panniqtuuq, Ishulutaq began her artistic practice and quickly started selling her work. She was included in the first Pangnirtung Print Collection in 1973 as well as each subsequent year a print collection was released. While Ishulutaq mostly worked in print and drawings, she also carved and transformed many of her prints into tapestries.

Ishulutaq's work was driven by a narrative thread that paired traditional ways of life, before settlements, alongside contemporary social and environmental issues affecting Inuit across the North. In her oil stick drawing Climate Change (2012) Ishulutaq depicted a lone Inuk in a parka, an igloo and a tree on either side. The figure faces the tree, which has begun to bloom despite being rooted in a patch of icy ground [1]. Behind them is a melting igloo, which seems to slump towards the figure, the impact of the heat warping its shape into an uncomfortable bend. Ishulutaq's piece reveals the impact of a changing climate on Inuit communities and it’s contrast with traditional ways of living. In 2016 Ishulutaq made four large-scale oil stick drawings that focused on the issue of youth suicide in northern communities. The works were the central focus of the larger solo exhibition Remembering A Future, Too at Marion Scott Gallery in Vancouver, BC the same year. Over the four panels Ishulutaq depicted an event from 1996 in which a young boy took his own life a year after his older brother had. Ishulutaq employed her work to break the silence and portray the tragedy in an effort to highlight the confluence of political issues that she felt contributed to the dramatic increase in suicide rates across the North [2]. In particular, she emphasized the loss of connection to the land and cultural values as well as the lack of support provided to northern communities [3].

Ishulutaq exhibited her work nationally and internationally in institutions such as the Winnipeg Art Gallery in Winnipeg, MB, the Inuit Galerie in Mannheim, Germany and Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna in Rome, Italy, among many others. Her work is included in many notable collections including the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa, ON, Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto, ON and the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in Montreal, QC. In 2014 she was awarded the Order of Canada for her contributions to the cultural and economic health of her community. Ishulutaq and her work have appeared in multiple publications including many profiles in the Inuit Art Quarterly. Notably, she was featured on the cover of IAQ’s Spring/Summer 2010 issue as well as the cover of Spring 2016.



Citations/Footnotes

1. Alison Cooley, “Listening for Sedna Contemporary Inuit Art and Climate,” Inuit Art Quarterly 29, no.1 (2016): 22-27. http://iaq.inuitartfoundation.org/29-1-listening-for-sedna/

2. Marion Scott Gallery, “Elisapee Ishulutaq: Remembering a Future, Too,” accessed April 18, 2017, http://www.marionscottgallery.com/EXHIBITIONS/2016/201609_EIRFT/01.php

3. Sima Sahar Zerehi, “Renowned Inuit artist depicts Pangnirtung teen who took his own life,” CBC North, May 2, 2016 accessed April 18, 2017, http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/north/elisapee-ishulutaq-paints-mural-suicide-1.3562353