man and boy in snow suits between two mermaid-like creatures, with animal and two birds
“Drawing out of your imagination is a lot better to me anyway. What you see in your head, is what you try to put on drawing… I try to make drawings look attractive enough.” – Kenojuak Ashevak’s interview with Odette Leroux, 1991
Kenojuak Ashevak is one of the first native women artists to join the Cape Dorset printmaking workshop on an island off the Hudson Strait in the East Arctic in the 1950s, a project supported by the Canadian government. Traditionally, this kind of image was and is still used by Inuit people for teaching their children about local history and culture (illustrated by the film Eskimo Artist: Kenojuak). Here, this drawing opens a unique window on the natural environment and lifestyle in a remote northern land. Looking at the backs of the two central figures—probably a parent and a child—who are encircled by sea deities and animals in the drawing, we seem to be drawn into Kenojuak’s vivid imagination and a fantastic Inuit world.
This piece was given to the SCMA by Alice Watson Houston, the wife of James Houston—the founder of the Cape Dorset printmaking project.
Jiete Li, Smith College, Class of 2015, ARH 292: Collecting the Past: Art and Artifacts of the Ancient Americas.
Additional writing on this object can be found at
Paper + People the Cunningham Center Blog.
man; boy; costume; fantasy; animal; bird