Today we’re taking a moment to celebrate the major artistic output from the Inuvialuit Settlement Region, featuring early trailblazers like Victor Ekootak and emerging artists like Karlyn Blake. Keep on scrolling to learn about the breadth of artmaking in the region!
Elsie Anaginak Klengenberg Awakening to the Spirit of Spring (1989) Stencil Courtesy IAF
A graphic artist from Ulukhaktok (Holman), Inuvialuit Settlement Region, NT, Elsie Klengenberg began drawing in 1980 and has continued steadily since, creating colourful graphics and prints that depict northern environments, hunting, daily life and Inuit mythology. Alongside collaborators Mary Okheena and Mabel Nigiyok, she created the Holman-style stencil technique, which allowed for complicated colour layering and tonal variety. In addition to the Winnipeg Art Gallery, which hosted her 1999 solo exhibition, Elsie Klengenberg: The Legend of Uvajuq, her works can be found in the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, QC, and the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre in Yellowknife, NT, among other institutions across North America.
Brian Kowikchuk Untitled (Raven against the sun) (2018) Acrylic COURTESY THE ARTIST
Brian Kowikchuk is a painter, arts advocate and teacher based out of Inuvik, Inuvialuit Settlement Region, NT. Initially inspired by his mother, who he would watch draw flowers as a child, Kowikchuk’s work often features landscapes, inuksuit, full moons and birds, particularly ravens and owls, rendered in vividly coloured acrylic paint. He teaches his signature techniques at The Artist’s Hub in Inuvik, where he intends to build community resiliency through arts programming.
Myrna Pokiak (Agnaviak) Beaded Baby Belt (n.d.) courtesy the artist
Myrna Pokiak (Agnaviak)
Best known for her photography, drawings and intricate textile work, Myrna Pokiak (Agnaviak) is a multidisciplinary artist, designer and curator from Tuktuyaaqtuuq (Tuktoyaktuk), Inuvialuit Settlement Region, NT, now residing in Yellowknife, NT. Her work blends traditional Inuvialuit art and design with contemporary art and is rooted in the cultural teachings she received from her family and community throughout her life. In 2019 Pokiak curated Qilalukkat! Belugas and Inuvialuit: Our Survival Together at the Museum of Nature in Ottawa, ON, and in 2020 one of her drawings was selected for a commemorative coin at the Royal Canadian Mint to celebrate 150 years of the Northwest Territories.
David Ruben Piqtoukun Spirit World of the Inuit (1984) Stone Courtesy the IAF
David Ruben Piqtoukun
A celebrated sculptor and printmaker from Paulatuuq (Paulatuk), Inuvialuit Settlement Region, NT, David Ruben Piqtoukun is known around the world for his complex stone and metal sculptures, informed by oral history and Inuit mythologies. Masks, animal spirits and shamanistic transformations all make frequent appearances in his work, sometimes rendered in abstract forms. He has been the subject of six solo exhibitions since 1973, including Between Two Worlds; Sculpture by David Ruben Piqtoukun at the Winnipeg Art Gallery, which toured across Canada from 1997 to 1998. He was also the first Inuk sculptor to be appointed to the Sculpture Society of Canada.
Agnes Nanogak Goose Tipagop Kaninani (1988) Stencil Printer Mary Okheena Courtesy the IAF
Agnes Nanogak Goose
Agnes Nanogak Goose was a prolific graphic artist and printmaker from Ulukhaktok, producing more than 200 prints during her lifetime. First introduced in the 1967 Holman Print Collection, every subsequent collection until 2000 featured work from Nanogak Goose. Her work was known for its dynamism, capturing the activity and movement of her community. In 1985, she received an honorary degree from Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax, NS, for her contribution to the arts. Her works are found in the public collections of more than 20 museums worldwide, including the Anchorage Museum in Alaska, Dennos Museum Centre in Traverse City, Michigan, and the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa, ON.
John Taylor Untitled (2019) Stone Courtesy the Artist
The youngest carver in a family proliferated with talented carvers like William Taylor, Derrald Taylor, Verna Taylor and more, John Taylor is best known for his stone sculptures of local animals, although he also works with caribou and beluga whalebone. Based in Inuvik, he is a regular at the Great Northern Arts Festival, where he has been an exhibitor for the past five years. In 2020, he, alongside three other sculptors, carved an enormous 5,000 pound monument celebrating the history of Tuktuyaaqtuuq, Taylor’s hometown.
Maureen Gruben Goose Call (2019) Bowhead verebrase, goose feathers and embroidery thread 23” x 19” x 4” courtesy fazakas gallery
Maureen Gruben is an installation, performance and textile artist from Tuktuyaaqtuuq who works primarily with fur, hides, skins and manufactured materials, to forge a link between land and community by activating themes around environmentalism, melting ice and Indigenous hunting rights. Gruben has been recognized through many awards, most recently becoming one of four circumpolar Indigenous artists longlisted for the 2021 Sobey Art Award, and has exhibited across Canada at institutions such as the Art Gallery of Guelph, the Vancouver Art Gallery and the Winnipeg Art Gallery.
Logan Ruben Untitled (Mountain Landscape) (2019) Acrylic on canvas 121.9 x 60.9 cm courtesy the artist
A painter and sculptor from Paulatuuq currently based in Cranbrook, BC, Logan “Umiligaaluk” Ruben uses bright colours and geometric shapes to craft richly detailed landscapes from Paulatuuq. In addition to his painting practice, Ruben is also a sculptor, using a variety of clay and metal wires to create arctic animals like narwhals and bears. He was profiled in the Winter 2020 issue of the Inuit Art Quarterly.
Karlyn Blake 270 Shells & Granny Hanky w/ 24k Gold and Pink Beads on Moosehide (2020) Courtesy the Artist
Karlyn Blake is a beader and jeweller from Aklavik, Inuvialuit Settlement Region, NT, who incorporates traditional materials like moosehide and glass beads alongside used bullets in her earring designs. Although earrings are the mainstay of her creative practice, Blake is also beginning to experiment with moccasins and slippers. She sells her work all over the world, under her own label Designs by Karjoy.
Victor Ekootak The Break of a Family (1966) Stonecut courtesy the IAF
An artist based in Ulukhaktok, Victor Ekootak was a co-founder of the Holman Eskimo Co-operative, and was one of the first artists to produce drawings and prints there in the early 1960s. He is also the father of Elsie Klengenberg, the artist at the top of this list! Ekootak was part of the first annual Holman Print Collection in 1965, and 12 of his prints were showcased in said collection between 1965 and 1966. As a skilled carver, Ekootak was one of the artists who both drew graphics and took part in the cutting process for prints, which is not always the case. His works are today found in the collections of the Winnipeg Art Gallery and the National Gallery of Canada.