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20 Carvers to Know in 2020: Heather Kayotak

Jan 09, 2020
by John Geoghegan

Womanhood features prominently in the sculptural works of Heather Kayotak—some women fish, while others carry children or pails full of berries. Each wears an amauti with distinctive, unique details. “I see lots of women with amautiit in different styles,” Kayotak says, “and I really like their styles and try to capture them in my carvings.”

Kayotak hails from Iglulik (Igloolik), NU, and notes that her parents, artists Yvonne and Marius Kayotak (1947–2008), both influenced her artistic approach. “I used to really like watching them carve,” she recalls. Kayotak has made jewellery from precious metals and sculpture from stone, ivory and antler, but prefers working with antler because it is abundant and “stone is too dusty for me.” Many of her caribou antler carvings, often depicting compactly rendered female figures, resemble the carvings of her mother but Kayotak’s playful details make her work distinctly her own.

Kayotak’s massive Mother and Child (c. 2010) is a commanding, joyful work that puts the artist’s skills on full display. Carved from tough local basalt, the work lacks the details present in Kayotak’s antler figures but is prominently rooted in gesture and emotion. The woman points her mittened hand upwards and gazes with the child she carries in her amauti on the shared point somewhere beyond. What are they looking at? It is mysteries like this that charm and delight in the work of Heather Kayotak.