Exploring Cape Dorset Art

WHALES’ TAILS AND OTHER TALES: CAPE DORSET’S PUDLAT FAMILY

Organized by the McMichael Canadian Art Collection and guest-curated by Inuit art scholar and former McMichael curator Susan Gustavison

 

   

Pudlo Pudlat (1916–1992), Long Journey, 1974, stonecut on paper, 63.1 x 86.3 cm, Gift of Mr. S.H. Freedhoff, McMichael Canadian Art Collection, 1977.38, Reproduced with the permission of Dorset Fine Arts.

 

Osoochiak Pudlat (1908–1992), Caribou Act as Men, 1983, lithograph on paper , 56.8 x 56.3 cm, McMichael Canadian Art Collection, Purchase 1986, 1986.14.3,
Reproduced with the permission of Dorset Fine Arts.

 

Simeonie Quppapik (1909–1997), Caribou Heads on Snowblock, 1993, lithograph on paper, 52.1 x 52.9 cm, McMichael Canadian Art Collection, Purchased with funds donated by Ben Robinson in the name of Zoe MacDonald, 1993.16.4, Reproduced with the permission of Dorset Fine Arts.


Whales’ Tails and Other Tales: Cape Dorset’s Pudlat Family is the ninth exhibition held at the McMichael gallery that is drawn from the archival collection owned by the West Baffin Eskimo Co-operative in Cape Dorset. This massive collection – close to 100,000 drawings and over 3,500 prints – arrived at the McMichael in 1991 on a long-term loan intended to ensure its safety and documentation, and to increase its exposure and availability to southern gallery visitors and researchers.

 

This exhibition brings together for the first time art created by brothers Pudlo Pudlat, Oshutsiak Pudlat, Simeonie Quppapik, Samuellie Pudlat, and step-brother Joe Jaw.  Also included are a few prints by Pudlo’s wife Innukjuakju, and her son Qabaroak Qatsiya. Some of the artists were active from the early 1960s while others came to the graphic arts later in life. Pudlo was a leading artist in his generation whose artworks are known around the world. The other brothers were lesser known but their creativity and skill are equally remarkable.

 

As the artists express their world through art, they tell us about their interests, their acute knowledge of the land, the seasons, and the animals of the Arctic. They also provide extensive evidence of the sustained contact, throughout their lives, between the Inuit of south west Baffin Island and Euro-Canadians or others from the “outside”. This contact included the introduction of extensive new technologies including rifles and ammunition, tools, food and food-related utensils, beads, cloth, boats, airplanes, helicopters, and the use of wood. 
Susan Gustavison

 

SUSAN GUSTAVISON has been a freelance curator of Inuit art, based in Toronto, for more than ten years. She is the author and co-author of numerous exhibition catalogues, including Northern Rock: Contemporary Inuit Stone Sculpture and dozens of magazine articles. Most recently, her essay “Canadian Art Dealers Embrace Inuit Art” was published in the Winnipeg Art Gallery’s new book, Creation and Transformation: Defining Moments in Inuit Art. During the nearly ten years that she worked at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection, Gustavison became Curator of Inuit and First Nations Art and organized some fifty exhibitions. She holds an MA in Art History from Concordia University and a BA in Art History from the University of Toronto.

 

Artist Biographies

Pudlo Pudlat, 1916 – 1992
Pudlo Pudlat was born at Ilipirukik camp near Amadjuak on Baffin Island. He was by far the most celebrated artist of the five Pudlat brothers; indeed he was one of the foremost Inuit artists of his generation. Pudlo traced his artistic beginnings to childhood when he used to draw on the igloo walls. After a hunting accident precipitated a permanent move to Cape Dorset in 1964, he began drawing on a steady basis. Eventually his drawings numbered over 4,600 of which nearly 200 were translated into prints. The highlight of his extensive exhibition history was a solo retrospective, Pudlo: Thirty Years of Drawing, at the National Gallery of Canada in 1990, a first for an Inuit artist. Pudlo was thoroughly professional in his approach to art, exploring all the diverse media and opportunities available to him. Among his peers, he was the most dogged in recording the changes to Cape Dorset and to Inuit culture that came with the increased presence of Euro-Canadians in the Arctic.

 

Oshutsiak Pudlat, 1908-1992
Like his brother Pudlo Pudlat, Oshutsiak Pudlat was born near Amadjuak. He started dropping by the Cape Dorset print shop to draw in the 1970s. He was inspired by a desire to illustrate his brother Simeonie Quppapik’s remarkable memoir about his life in the Amadjuak area of Baffin Island. Once started, Oshutsiak drew prolifically using graphite, coloured pencils, and felt-tip pens. Eventually his drawings numbered almost 300. Not only was Oshutsiak a precise draftsman with a delicate touch, he also handled texture and shadow with sensitivity and skill. In the decade from 1982 to 1992, Oshutsiak had almost thirty prints included in the Cape Dorset collections. It is not an exaggeration to credit Oshutsiak and Simeonie with revitalizing the Cape Dorset print program in the early 1990s despite their advanced years at the time. Like Pudlat, Oshutsiak’s drawings often record the presence, either directly or indirectly, of qallunat culture in the north. In the community Oshutsiak was an active participant in the life of the Anglican Church. The late artist Aoudla Pudlat was his stepson.

 

Simeonie Quppapik, 1909-1997
Simeonie Quppapik was adopted out as an infant by his parents to Quvianaqtuq and Tumerak, a couple with three girls and no boys. His earliest memories were of life on a whaling ship in Hudson Strait and of his family camp near Amadjuak. Amadjuak, on the south west coast of Baffin Island is closer to Kimmirut (formerly known as Lake Harbour) than to Cape Dorset. During the 1970s, Simeonie wrote a lengthy memoir, as yet unpublished, of his life there. At the time a fledgling typography project was underway in Cape Dorset. In his memoir, he documents the continual presence of white people in the life of his family and other Inuit, whether miners, whalers, reindeer herders, traders, or ministers. In Cape Dorset, Simeonie was a highly respected elder and a gifted story-teller.

 

Samuellie Pudlat, 1920-1987
Samuellie Pudlat was born at Coat’s Island which lies south of Southampton Island in north western Hudson’s Bay. The Pudlat family, along with others, was moved there in 1919. The move was intended to facilitate the establishment of a Hudson’s Bay Company post. Around 1928, the family returned to their original home territory on Baffin Island near Lake Harbour (now called Kimmirut). Unusual for the time, Samuellie attended Lakefield College School, a private school near Peterborough, Ontario for several years. From 1960 onwards, Samuellie was a long-time employee of the West Baffin Eskimo Co-operative. The elementary school in Cape Dorset, Sam Pudlat School, is named after him. Samuellie was an accomplished but not prolific artist. His wife Mary Pudlat, much loved in Cape Dorset, was a well-known graphic artist. His daughter Pitaloosie Saila is a renowned graphic artist.

 

Joe Jaw, 1930-1987
Joe Jaw, a step brother to the Pudlat siblings, was born on Nottingham Island near Coral Harbour while the family lived in northwestern Hudson’s Bay. On their return to Baffin Island, he lived at Qarmaaijuk camp before moving to Cape Dorset with his wife Mealia to escape starvation. He did some drawing but stopped in 1961 when tuberculosis forced him into hospital in southern Canada. He also did some carving; his work was included in the 1971-73 exhibition Masterworks of the Canadian Arctic. Five of his drawings were shown in Strange Scenes: Early Cape Dorset Drawings, a 1993 exhibition at the McMichael. His wife Mealia also drew and carved. The contemporary sculptor Matthew Saveakjuk Jaw is their son.

 

Innukjuakju Pudlat, 1913-1972
Innukjuakju Pudlat married Pudlo Pudlat in 1949. Both had previously been married and widowed. In the spring of 1957 they were flown from Amadjuak to Cape Dorset for medical treatment. During Pudlo’s prolonged absence for tuberculosis treatment, Innukjuakju lived with her five children in Kiaktuuq, the base of famed camp leader Peter Pitseolak. Oshutsiak Pudlat, Samuellie Pudlat, Joe Jaw, Kenojuak Ashevak (a renowned artist who recently passed away), and their families also lived in the same camp. Innukjuakju drew actively for about a decade before she was forced by poor health to stop. Close to 900 drawings by Innukjuakju are held in the Dorset collection. About fifteen were used for print editions between 1960 and 1968.

 

Qabaroak Qatsiya, 1942-
Qabaroak Qatsiya is the son of Innukjuakju and stepson of Pudlo Pudlat. He worked in the stonecut print shop of the West Baffin Eskimo Co-operative from 1973 to 1982. Qabaroak was especially adept at cutting the print stone blocks, and he also enjoyed the inking and proofing processes. While active in the print shop, he was responsible for nearly eighty print editions. Although not as prolific an artist as he was a printer, he has done about sixty drawings, two prints, and some sculpting. Over the years Qabaroak has been extremely active in community and government affairs as well as the local radio station and the West Baffin Eskimo Co-operative. Unusual for a male Inuk, he has been an accomplished throat singer since his youth.