Thomassie Echalook (1935–2011) didn't miss a single detail. The Inukjuak artist’s Untitled is full of intricate elements, from the ring sealskin bag to the hunter’s skin clothing and finally down to the scales on the fish. I think it's unfortunate that the CEAC rejected it and that such a beautiful print ended up spending the last 40 years sitting in drawer, where few people have had access to it.
While some of the scene appears abstract at first, looking closely reveals how much thought Echalook put into this composition. At first glance, it appears as if there is a carpet beneath the figure but what the artist is representing is the snow that had to be removed to access the ice below—natural material that would have been carefully removed in blocks to create the blind behind him. Other incredible features include the figure’s eyebrows, the fur around his collar, his kamiit, fishing rod and other tools needed for such an occasion.
Despite the fact that only one figure is pictured in this work, many aspects of the graphic hint to the teamwork and cooperation that exist amongst Inuit. His clothing is well made and lovingly crafted. He is only able to go out in the cold because his wife made him such expertly constructed clothing. When I look at this print I see a man trying to feed his family, a family whose group effort, in turn, has enabled him to hunt.
Between 1975 and 1976, 141 prints submitted to the CEAC by artists from the community were rejected. I can’t help but wonder if this devastating refusal is the reason that 1976 was the last year Inukjuak released a print collection. I still don't know how someone could look at this work, so full of detail and narrative, and not understand its beauty. But, I am grateful it has survived and that it can be shared today.
This article is part of our Feature series "What Gets Lost: The Canadian Eskimo Arts Council's Rejected Prints".