The Globe and Mail
Kenojuak Ashevak, the premier artist and guiding visionary of Inuit art died at home in Cape Dorset early Tuesday morning. She was 85 and had been diagnosed with lung cancer last summer. Funeral arrangements are pending.
Ms. Ashevak, who was born in an igloo in the Inuit camp of Ikirasaq at the southern tip of Baffin Island, grew up on the land. She was a natural artist who was embroidering symbolic objects on clothing and bags long before adventurer and art dealer James Houston arrived in the Arctic in the late 1950s. Her design, “rabbit eating seaweed” was part of the first release of prints from Dorset Fine Arts and she was also in last year’s collection. A hard working productive artist, she was for many years “the backbone of the collection,” said her long time dealer and friend Pat Feheley of Feheley Fine Arts.
“She was the star of the Dorset artists but she was also a national icon transcending Inuit Art,” said Ms. Feheley. “Everybody knows the image of The Enchanted Owl and everybody knows her name – internationally,” said Ms. Feheley. “What mattered to her most was to make the picture beautiful. It was all a desire to create what was in her head, but to do it in a beautiful way.”
Ms. Ashevak, a smiling beatific presence, received many honours during her lifetime including the Order of Canada. Her 1960 print Enchanted Owl was made into a postal stamp to commemorate the centennial of the Northwest Territories in 1970. Four years later she was inducted into the Royal Canadians Academy of Arts.
Ms. Ashevak is survived by two children and an extended family covering several generations.
Shown with article: The Enchanted Owl, 1960