Kablusiak has a wry sense of humour. Working across media, including installation, print, drawing, film and sculpture, the artist utilizes their art “as a coping mechanism to subtly address diaspora, and to openly address mental illness.” The result is a practice seasoned with the macabre, made palatable by the sweetness of its delivery.
The Yellowknife-born, Edmonton-raised artist unflinchingly reflects the angst and anxiety of many of their generation. It’s visible in works such as She Was Ok (2016), a print depicting a tombstone engraved with the ambivalent platitude, or the sprawling installation Life Is Okay Sometimes (2014), comprised of untitled doodles featuring line-drawn bodies acting out phrases like “Fuck It” and “Pity Party”, or sobbing, crawling or pleading above others, including “It’s hard to make art when you feel empty inside.”
Kablusiak She Was Ok (2016)
Following a diploma in Fine Art from Grant MacEwan University, Kablusiak went on to receive their bachelor in Fine Arts from the Alberta College of Art and Design in 2016. Now currently based in Banff, AB, where they are undertaking an Indigenous Curatorial Research Practicum with the Walter Phillips Gallery at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, they remain an actively engaged member of Calgary’s contemporary art scene as an artist, curator and administrator. They are a member of the curatorial collective Ociciwan Contemporary Art Collective as well as a board member for Stride Gallery, one of the city’s most established artist-run centres. Beyond the province, Kablusiak is the Inuvialuit Youth Representative on the Winnipeg Art Gallery’s Indigenous Advisory Circle and was one of 50 Indigenous artists who participated in curator Lee-Ann Martin’s expansive Canada-wide billboard project, in the summer of 2018.
Most recently, however, the artist turned their sights to a more diminutive project, creating a suite of stone carvings – their first – for the 2017 edition of the Sled Island Music & Arts Festival. The pieces include a lighter and cigarettes, as well as a lipstick tube, tampon and diva cup and received an over-whelmingly positive reception, despite some generational confusion. “A lot of the younger crew identified the diva cup right off the bat,” explains the artist. “While a number of older people were like, ‘I don’t know what that little cup is.’ I think it really subverted what people might have been expecting to see from Inuit carving.” It is this clever and deeply personal approach that situates Kablusiak within a robust lineage of Inuit artists who have thoughtfully and truthfully depicted their lives through auto-biographical works, including Jamasee Pitseolak, Jutai Toonoo (1959–2015) and Oviloo Tunnillie, RCA (1949–2014).
This profile originally appeared in the Winter 2017 issue of the Inuit Art Quarterly. It has been edited for the web.