Gayle Uyagaqi Kabloona is a multidisciplinary artist from Ottawa, ON, who creates ceramics, prints, graphic art, wallhangings, knitwear and more. Kabloona’s work is inspired by the art of her grandmother, Victoria Mamnguqsualuk, and the colours and bold shapes of her great-grandmother, Jessie Oonark, and often incorporates traditional Inuit stories told through a modern, feminist lens.
Kabloona’s practice began with knitting and crocheting when she was living in Iqaluit, NU, as a way to occupy her hands while her grandmother was ill and take her mind off something she had no control over. “I realized how good creating felt,” says Kabloona . Despite coming from a highly artistic background, Kabloona’s family encouraged her to go to school and get a salaried career; she graduated from Concordia University with a Bachelor of Arts in Urban Planning and worked for years as an urban planner, but art was always on her mind. “I finally had to come to terms with that and go for it,” she says about transitioning into art full time, “even though it was scary and I didn’t know how it was gonna work out.”
Kabloona took printmaking courses at the Ottawa School of Art and learned how to throw pottery and do handbuilding with clay at Loam Clay Studio in Ottawa. During the pandemic, she began doing more production-style work, working out of a group pottery studio and creating her own prints at home. In addition to her family, Kabloona’s work is influenced by historical Inuit prints from the 1970s—“when they were drawing what their lives were like,”—and everyday objects that have symbolic meaning for Inuit, like Red Rose tea; things “that are just a tiny bit noticeably Inuk,” she says. Despite the time-consuming nature of production work, Kabloona enjoyed the accessibility of that practice, seeing her work in people’s home’s and the support she felt from her community, describing it as a “crowdsourced career.”
In 2022, Kabloona’s practice shifted away from production work to larger-scale projects when she embarked on a Creative Research Residency with the Art Gallery of Guelph that culminated in displaying her art in ᑲᔪHᐃᐅᑎHᐃᒪᔭᑦᑲ - Kajuhiutihimajatka - What I’m Carrying On. She had the opportunity to spend time with her grandmother’s works in the museum’s collection and to create a wallhanging of her own, Tiriganiaq, a feminist retelling of the story of the Fox Wife that, like much of her work, explores the gendered violence in traditional Inuit stories and seeks to find a new way forward for the female characters. She came away from the residency with a new appreciation for the art of textiles and the tiny, perfect stitches employed by Inuit seamstresses to make them. Also in 2022, she created two polar bear prints for the theatre poster of the National Art Centre’s production of The Breathing Hole, directed by Reneltta Arluk, worked with Google to create three Google Pixel wallpapers to celebrate World Indigenous Peoples’ Day and designed a stamp for Canada Post to recognize the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.
“I’ve learned there are a lot of opportunities as an artist,” she says, like the mentoring duties she recently began through the Inuit Futures program. Despite the changes to her practice over time, Kabloona’s favourite part is always “creating and working on things.”
In May 2023 Kabloona was shortlisted for the 2023 Kenojuak Ashevak Memorial Award.
This Profile was made possible through support from RBC Emerging Artists.