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A Journey through Aesthetic Realms

Kenojuak Ashevak: Ambassador of Inuit Art

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In 1970, Canada Post issued a stamp entitled “Enchanted Owl” to commemorate the centennial of the Northwest Territories. Then in 1980, “Return of the Sun” was issued as part of its Inuit Spirits series, and in 1993, “The Owl” for its Masterpieces of Canadian Art series. The creator of these iconic images is beloved Canadian Inuit artist Kenojuak Ashevak. Through her vast body of remarkable work created over more than five decades, Kenojuak introduced the world to Inuit art and culture. Inspired by Inuit folklore, the traditional Arctic way of living, and mainly the natural world around her, she used fluid lines to intuitively transform her mental images in a unique, imaginative, often playful style that featured simple motifs and vibrant colors.

Apart from her drawings and prints in stone cut, lithography, and etching, Kenojuak maintained a diverse artistic practice that included soapstone carving, textiles, stained glass, and design. Her works have been exhibited throughout Canada, the United States, Europe, and Asia, and have been sought after by museums, galleries, and private collectors.

Kenojuak made over 100 prints with the owl-person motif, including some that are audacious, festive, or inquisitive, and others simpler in style, reflecting the seasons. She once said, “There is no word for art. We say it is to transfer something from the real to unreal. I am an owl, and I am a happy owl. I like to make people happy and everything happy. I am the light of happiness and I am a dancing owl.”

To honor this celebrated Canadian artist, the National Gallery of Canada held a retrospective exhibition of five decades of her artistic achievements titled Kenojuak Ashevak: To Make Something Beautiful. Kenojuak continued to create diligently until the last days of her life, and passed away on January 7, 2013. Through her unique creative language, she dedicated her life to helping Inuit art and culture win global recognition.
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