Who doesn’t love Kenojuak Ashevak? The iconic work created by this Kinngait (Cape Dorset), NU, artist inspired thousands of people around the globe. Today, we take a look at how Ashevak’s style continues to inspire Inuit artists working today: although she is gone, her presence can still be felt in this collection of works, which each pay tribute to one (or more) of Ashevak’s stunning graphics.
(L) Erica Jacque Embroidered Owl Earrings (2020) © the artist
(R) Kenojuak Ashevak Owl Becoming Ravens (c. 1990-2000) Ink 50.8 x 66.04 cm REPRODUCED WITH PERMISSION DORSET FINE ARTS © THE ARTIST
Erica Jacque described her Embroidered Owl Earrings (2020) as an homage to Ashevak’s ink drawing Owl Becoming Ravens (c. 1990–2000), but “reimagined as wearable art.”
Replicating the stippling on the owl’s body with varied white and black stitches, Jacque renders the piece in earring form with a plum thread border that curls around the contours of the transformation scene like some kind of magical smoke effect.
(L) Michael Massie Homage to Kenojuak (c.1980) Lithograph and collage 84.5 x 61 cm COURTESY THE ROOMS © THE ARTIST
(R) Kenojuak Ashevak The Woman Who Lives in the Sun (1960) Printmaker Lukta Qiatsuk Stonecut 49.5 x 65.4 cm REPRODUCED WITH PERMISSION DORSET FINE ARTS COURTESY FIRST ARTS PHOTO DIETER HESSEL © THE ARTIST
One of very few prints produced in Nunatsiavut, Michael Massie’s Homage to Kenojuak (c.1980) stands out for its reference to one of Ashevak’s most beloved prints, The Woman Who Lives in the Sun. Both completed in a fiery orange-red, these two images feature the radial symmetry Ashevak was well known for, but where Ashevak’s woman is alone in space, Massie has anchored her to the ground with an added collage layer that speaks to the earth below.
(L) Billy Gauthier Swimming Loons (My Tribute to Kenojuak Ashevak) (2010) Horn, antler, serpentinite and labradorite 45.7 x 45.7 x 30.5 cm COURTESY THE ROOMS © THE ARTIST
(R) Kenojuak Ashevak Birds From the Sea (1960) Printmaker Iyola Kingwatsiak Stonecut 48.26 x 60.96 cm REPRODUCED WITH PERMISSION DORSET FINE ARTS © THE ARTIST
While not necessarily a one-to-one comparison to a single piece from Ashevak’s career, Billy Gauthier’s Swimming Loons (My Tribute to Kenojuak Ashevak) (2010) is reminiscent of the wavy, fluid linework that characterizes much of Ashevak’s early print work, with curving shapes connecting series of disparate figures. The monochromatic stone treatment and curving loon tails echo in parts Ashevak’s Birds From the Sea (1960), which, although not identified as loons, certainly share a set of long necks!
(L) Angela Aula Preening Owl Makeup (2022) © the artist
(R) Kenojuak Ashevak Preening Owl (1995) Printer Arnaqu Ashevak Stonecut 49.5 x 73.7 cm
REPRODUCED WITH PERMISSION DORSET FINE ARTS © THE ARTIST
Makeup artist Angela Aula has recreated Ashevak’s Preening Owl (1995) in a one-minute TikTok video that shows viewers how she translated Ashevak’s iconic artwork to the 3D canvas of her own face. Using the image from our very own 30 Ways to Describe an Owl According to Kenojuak Ashevak article, Aula uses concealer to get a bright colour payoff of red and yellow before going in with the black to bring graphic contrast.
(L) Ooloosie Ashevak Dorset Amauti (n.d) Duffle, beads, coins and wolverine fur trim 154.9 x 61 cm REPRODUCED WITH PERMISSION DORSET FINE ARTS COURTESY WADDINGTON’S AUCTIONEERS AND APPRAISERS © THE ARTIST
(R) Kenojuak Ashevak Audiacious Owl (1993) Printmaker QIassaq Niviaqsi 62.1 x 73.7 cm REPRODUCED WITH PERMISSION DORSET FINE ARTS © THE ARTIST
This Dorset Amauti (n.d.) by Ashevak’s daughter-in-law Ooloosie Ashevak, is a fitting tribute to her mother-in-law, replicating no fewer than three of Kenojuak’s notable works in beads. Audacious Owl (1993) takes centre stage on the top of the chest piece, known for gracing the cover of the 1993 Cape Dorset Print Collection catalogue, while underneath the beaded fringe sits Rabbit Eating Seaweed (1959), Ashevak’s first print in the inaugural edition of the same.
The centre back, meanwhile, features a portrait that will be familiar to anyone well versed in Ashevak’s artistic oeuvre as a whole: she included this face, a depiction of herself, in many many different prints and compositions over the years.
(L) Ooloosie Saila Festive Owl (2021) Lithograph 57.15 x 73.03 cm REPRODUCED WITH PERMISSION DORSET FINE ARTS COURTESY INUIT GALLERY OF VANCOUVER © THE ARTIST
(R) Kenojuak Ashevak The Enchanted Owl (1960) Printer Iyola Kingwatsiak Platemaker Eegyvudluk Pootoogook Stonecut 60.96 x 66.04 cm REPRODUCED WITH PERMISSION DORSET FINE ARTS © THE ARTIST
I see so many Ashevak references in Ooloosie Saila’s Festive Owl (2021)—it is reminiscent of Ashevak’s famous The Enchanted Owl (1960), in the radiating feather plumes, but the windblown and organic shape of them point more towards Ashevak’s Sun Owl (c.1963-1964).
Saila counts Ashevak as a major influence in her work; she grew up in Kinngait and spent time as a child watching the iconic artist create drawings in her home. Ashevak produced dozens, if not hundreds, of images of owls (and other birds) with their plumage spread around them over the course of her career, so it’s not a stretch to imagine Saila was present when she was working on at least one.
(L) Padloo Samayualie Burst of Plumage (2021) Stonecut 46.99 x 62.23 cm REPRODUCED WITH PERMISSION DORSET FINE ARTS COURTESY INUIT GALLERY OF VANCOUVER © THE ARTIST
(R) Kenojuak Ashevak Happy Little Owl (1969) Printmaker Eegyvudluk Pootoogook Stonecut 60.96 x 86.36 cm REPRODUCED WITH PERMISSION DORSET FINE ARTS © THE ARTIST
Padloo Samayualie’s Burst of Plumage (2021) is another piece with many possible Ashevak avian interpretations, although the outsized plumage and tiny body likely echo most closely Ashevak’s Happy Little Owl (1969). Unlike Ashevak’s subject, whose emotion is revealed in the work’s title, the goggling round eyes Samayualie has created might alternately hint at shock, fear or excitement.