Lucy Qinnuayuak (1915-1982) was a graphic artist from Kinngait, NU (Cape Dorset). She was born in an outpost camp near Salluit, Nunavik and moved to South Baffin Island with her family at a young age . Qinnuayuak began drawing etchings in the 1950s while living at Supujuak camp and would bring her drawings to James Houston to appraise during resupply trips to Kinngait . In the early 1960s she settled in Kinngait and began participating in the printmaking program .
Qinnuayuak was one of the first people to begin creating graphic works through the Kinngait Studios. Her early works were stonecut, in keeping with contemporary printmaking techniques at the time. Towards the end of her artistic practice in the late 1970s Qinnuayuak was introduced to acrylic paints and began creating mixed media works . Her method of painting was to use broad, fluid strokes to create backgrounds and figure outlines, adding details with felt tipped pen and coloured pencil overtop . The print Bird Fantasy (1977-78), composed with felt pen, crayon and acrylic, is an example of Qinnuayuak’s approach to combining mediums . Lithographs of her drawings also appeared around the same time that Qinnuayuak began using acrylics. Her drawing Opiit (Group of Owls) (1976) was one of the first lithographs included in the Cape Dorset Annual Print Collection . Despite the advent of paints and lithography Qinnuayuak preferred to keep her compositions on a white background, rarely depicting landscapes.
Qinnuayuak’s images are surreal, colourful and frequently light-hearted in tone. She often illustrated lively compositions of families, traditional camp activities and community gatherings. Her most recognizable works are her depictions of birds. Owls were a common motif. Her earlier birds are identifiable as gulls, owls and geese, defined by bold outlines and formalized bodies. Over time the shapes of her birds became amorphous and surreal, their bodies dense with colourful patterns, as in her print Owls of Baffin (1982).
Qinnuayuak’s works have been widely exhibited and were featured in nearly every Cape Dorset Annual Print Collection from 1961 to 1982. She was one of ten artists to have her design selected for the banner of the 1976 Montreal Summer Olympics, which was displayed at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto, ON . In 1984 the stonecut of her print Large Bear (1961) was donated to the Tate Gallery in London, UK and was later put on display at the Scott Polar Research Institute in Cambridge, UK . Her work Untitled Drawing (Owl and People) (1975) was featured on the cover of the Summer 2004 issue of the Inuit Art Quarterly . Most recently, a stonecut of her print Spectator Birds (1970) was featured in the exhibition Maanngat (From Here) (Nov 2016-Feb 2017) at the Drake Hotel in Toronto, ON . Her works are held in numerous major artistic institutions, including the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa, ON and the Winnipeg Art Gallery in Winnipeg, MB.
1976: Qinnuayuak’s design for the Montreal Summer Olympics banner was one of ten submissions to be selected.
1972: Qinnuayuak’s print Sun Bird (1969) was reproduced on a UNICEF card.
1. Dorset Fine Arts, “Lucy Qinnuayuak” (Biography, Toronto, ON: accessed February 23, 2018), 1.
2. “Lucy Qinnuayuak,” The Canadian Encyclopedia, accessed February 23, 2018. http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/lucy-qinnuayuak/.
3. Dorset Fine Arts, “Lucy Qinnuayuak,” 1.
5. Christine Lalonde, “Artists in the Arctic,” Inuit Art Quarterly 18, no. 3 (Fall 2003): 41.
6. Janet Catherine Berlo, “An Exhibition, A Book and An Exaggerated Reaction,” Inuit Art Quarterly 10, no. 1 (Spring 1995): 28.
7. Jean Blodgett, In Cape Dorset We Do It This Way: Three Decades of Inuit Printmaking (Kleinburg, ON: McMichael Canadian Art Collection, 1991): 92.
8. Dorset Fine Arts, “Lucy Qinnuayuak,” 15.
9. Ibid, 16.
10. Inuit Art Foundation, “Untitled Drawing (Owl and People) (1975) ,” Inuit Art Quarterly 19, no. 2 (Summer 2004): Cover.
11. “Past Exhibits: Maanngat (From Here),” The Drake Hotel, accessed February 23, 2018. http://www.thedrakehotel.ca/culture/mz-maanga-here/.