For our 30th anniversary issue, the IAQ asked 15 leading figures in Inuit art to nominate an early-career artist to watch. In turn, those artists selected a senior talent who has inspired them. The result is “30 Artists to Know”, an expansive portfolio exploring the intergenerational, familial and community-based bonds that are made visible through art.
Fanny Algaalaga Avatituq b. 1950
Fanny Algaalaga Avatituq is an amazing textile artist. She works at the Jessie Oonark Centre almost every afternoon and has been making wall hangings for many years but hasn’t been given much exposure. Most of her works are sold locally and rarely circulate in southern markets. This said, she is a very skilled artist. Fanny, much like her mother-in-law, Ruth Qaulluaryuk Nuilaalik, creates works that primarily feature flowers or leaves, resulting in dense, all-over patterns. And although they make similar work, Fanny’s pieces are still highly original.
A perfectionist, Fanny will have a wall hanging almost finished but run out of green thread and then tear out all of the stitches to redo them in blue or some other colour, so that everything is harmonious. All are perfectly square, which is very difficult when you make works with lots of tight stitching. Large wall hangings can take Fanny a month or two to make, so we do not get to see as many of her works as we’d like. But when they do come through, they are always exceptional. – David Ford Ruth Qaulluaryuk Nuilaalik (b. 1932 Qamani'tuaq), Summer on the Tundra, c. 2010, melton cloth and thread, 95.3 × 72.4 cm COURTESY EXPANDING INUIT
Ruth Qaulluaryuk Nuilaalik b. 1932
I learned to make wall hangings around 1968 or ’69. There was an old training centre, and I started seeing wall hangings for the first time. My mother-in-law, Ruth Qaulluaryuk Nuilaalik, taught me how to make them. Ruth still sews; she mostly makes wall hangings with patterns of flowers, leaves and animals. All-over patterns are her specialty, and she likes to sew flowers the most.
A long time ago, she wanted to embroider flowers, but she didn’t know how. Once I taught her how, she started using the flowers all the time. Our wall hangings are very different from the other artists in Qamani’tuaq (Baker Lake). Sometimes I will make a polar bear, or a bird, or ulus and tools or Inuit games, but usually I make works with all over patterns like Ruth.
She’s getting old, so she’s a bit slower than she used to be. I help her once in awhile when she is having a hard time drawing a pattern or cutting felt. She also tends to use brighter coloured threads now because she has a hard time seeing dark colours. So sometimes I help her pick the colours she wants as well. – Fanny Algaalaga Avatituq
Ford is the General Manager of the Jessie Oonark Centre in Qamani’tuaq (Baker Lake), NU, which offers workspace for local artists working in a variety of media. Prior to this position, Ford ran his own gallery, the Okpiktuyuk Art Gallery, where, between 1984 and 2009, he encouraged and championed many artists in the community.
These profiles appeared in the Fall 2017 issue of the Inuit Art Quarterly.
30 Artists to Know