Artist Biography

Kenojuak Ashevak was born on South Baffin Island. She has been a sculptor and graphic artist for more than forty years and is one of the most widely recognized living Inuit artists today. Kenojuak Ashevak spent her childhood living on the land and following the traditional Inuit lifestyle in South Baffin Island and Arctic Quebec. She married artist Johnniebo Ashevak, and in the late 1950s they began drawing and carving together. In 1966, they moved to Cape Dorset and worked closely together until Johnniebo’s death in 1972.

Since 1959, her work has been represented through the artists’ cooperative and has been shown in numerous exhibitions throughout Canada, the United States, Europe, and Asia. Kenojuak’s prints are made by stone cutters and printers and based on her drawings. The favourite subjects of her drawings and prints are birds, fish, and human faces, which are usually solitary icons, without any background or context.

Kenojuak has received many honours throughout her career. In 1961, she was featured in the film “Eskimo Artist: Kenojuak” by the National Film Board. In 1970, her print The Enchanted Owl was reproduced on a stamp commemorating the centennial of the Northwest Territories. In 1993, Canada Post selected her drawing The Owl for their 86-cent stamp. Kenojuak is a Companion of the Order of Canada and has been awarded Honorary Degrees from Queen’s University and the University of Toronto. In 1996, she received the prestigious Lifetime Aboriginal Achievement Award, and in 2001 she was inducted into Canada’s Walk of Fame. Kenojuak is currently the senior member of the Cape Dorset group of graphic artists.

And I Quote:

“I just take these things out of my thoughts, and out of my imagination, and I don’t really give any weight to the idea of its being an image of something. In other words, I am not trying to show what anything looks like in the material world. I am just concentrating on placing it down on paper in a way that is pleasing to my own eye, whether it has anything to do with subjective reality or not. And that is how I have tried to make my images and that is still how I do it and I haven’t really thought about it in any other way than that. That is just my style, and that is the way I started and that is the way I am today.”

From An Interview With Jean Blodgett, 1980