Book Review: Annie Pootoogook: Cutting Ice

Annie Pootoogook: Cutting Ice (cover)

Annie Pootoogook: Cutting Ice by Nancy Campbell. (2017). Goose Lane Editions and McMichael Canadian Art Collections. Written in English and Inuktitut, translation by Rhoda Kayakjuak. Printed in Canada.

Annie Pootoogook: Cutting Ice is a companion book to an art exhibition organized by the McMichael Canadian Art Collection from September 2, 2017 and February 11, 2018 in memory and honor of the artist.

I first learned about Annie Pootoogook and her artwork watching a documentary film directed by Marcia Connolly. When I later Googled her name, I was saddened to hear Annie had died under tragic circumstances. I was so moved by her story and artwork, I made a collage portrait of her. That blog post is here.

Let me start by saying this book, Annie Pootoogook: Cutting Ice, is simply gorgeous. Whether or not Annie could truly understand it, she was obviously loved and revered by the people who knew her. Even those in the art world who, arguably, played some role in thrusting her into the limelight—and a world that was, perhaps, too overwhelming and foreign for Annie to fully grasp—seem to have a special affinity for her and her artwork.

The book contains several essays which help bring a historical perspective. The arts played (and still plays) an integral role in Kinngait (Cape Dorset), where Annie grew up and learned her craft. Annie's life and story is intertwined with social, economic, and political challenges; some of which she was aware. Annie's artwork reflects every day life and all that entails: love, loss, friendships, disappointments, and despair. Nancy Campbell's essay, Dear Annie..., is especially moving. She writes:

The time I spent with her altered my world view, taught me about the North and the importance of community. Annie was a hard worker who produced hundreds of drawings at the West Baffin Eskimo Co-operative and, later, in Ottawa. She was serious about her art and proud of her accomplishments. She was shy but determined to please. When I first saw her work, I was captivated by its clarity, astute composition, and honesty. (pp. 77-78)

As Ian A.C. Dejardin explains in the director's foreword, "Cutting ice" implies "something that matters or has consequence." (p. 12). Annie's artwork changed how Inuit art is perceived worldwide and within her own community. Her influence is reflected in some of the work of her contemporaries, which are also included in the book: Shuvinai Ashoona, Siassie Kenneally, Ohotaq Mikkigak, Itee Pootoogook, and Jutai Toonoo.

If you are unfamiliar with Annie Pootoogook's work, I hope you will explore her work further. Annie Pootoogook: Cutting Ice is a great place to start.

Have you read this book? Let me know what I've got wrong (or right!).

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