MONTREAL — Inuit artist Kenojuak Ashevak has been honoured with a Google Doodle in Canada on what would have been her 87th birthday.
In a statement on the Doodle, Google said that it was paying tribute to the artist because of her contribution to Canadian culture: “Ashevak’s work brought national attention to indigenous art and thrusted the ever-humble artist into the spotlight.”
Owl motifs were often featured in Ashevak’s work and the Google Doodle resembles one of her well-known drawings, The Enchanted Owl, which was featured on a stamp in 1970 to commemorate the centenary of the creation of the Northwest Territories, and a print of which is held in the collections of the National Gallery.
“Kenojuak’s original drawing for the print The Enchanted Owl is a simple yet remarkably eloquent pencil drawing on pulp paper,” Christine Lalonde, an expert in Inuit art with the National Gallery of Canada, told Global News.
“That it has inspired so many, and continues to, is really a testament to her exceptional talent and vision.”
Born in an igloo in 1927 in an Inuit camp on Baffin Island to a hunter and respected shaman, Ashevak was one of the first Inuit women in Cape Dorset to become involved with printmaking and later with the West Baffin Eskimo Co-operative, the first Inuit owned co-operative operated by its members.
These trailblazing artists published their first official catalogue of prints in 1959, which was launched in February 1960 at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, and took the Canadian art world by storm.
Ashevak became interested in art while being treated for tuberculosis at Parc Savard Hospital in Quebec City between 1952 and 1955. It was during this time that she met the sculptor Harold Pfeiffer, who would visit patients to teach them arts and crafts in order to help pass the time and possibly earn extra money, as the hospital sold artworks on behalf of the patients.
After moving to Cape Dorset, she continued to develop her talents as an artist, working as a sculptor and printmaker, and was known for her imaginative drawings, sculptures and independent spirit.
“I have a style of drawing that doesn’t belong to anybody but me,” she once said.
“It is my own… people can try to copy it but they can’t…”
Watch: A 1963 National Film Board documentary by John Feeney shows how the artist’s drawings were transferred to stone, printed and then sold.