Last month, the art world lost a renowned and important voice: Lucy Tasseor Tutsweetok passed away on April 12 at the age of 77. Born in Nunalla, Manitoba in 1934, she was part of the Ihalmiut group of Inuit in the Kivalliq region. Eventually, she moved to Kangirqliniq (Rankin Inlet) where she met Richard Tutsweetok. They eventually settled in Arviat, where swiftly become one of the most defining voices of Inuit art.
Tasseor is best known for her sculptures, which helped to set an artistic standard for Kivalliq sculptural style along with artists like John Pangnark and Andy Miki. Using hard steatite, she created abstract yet deeply moving works. Like many artists working with tough stone in the region, she worked with the stone rather than against it. Instead of sculpting detailed, realistic sculptures, Tasseor instead would sculpt minimalist figures that appeared to emerge from the stone using incised lines for added detail. Often, her process was visible on the stone: file marks were left exposed, showing her hand and the human effort it took to create the piece.
Though abstract, Tasseor’s work often focuses on the themes of familial and community relationships. Her figures rarely exist in isolation, but rather emerge in groups from the stone. Her careful handling of the spatial relationships between the figures transforms the cold stone into a warm examination of the importance of relationships to Arctic life. Tasseor was a well-respected elder in her community who helped to support many living in Arviat, so her focus on relationships seems to be an extension of her own life.
Though known primarily for her sculpture, Tasseor also created other art forms. For example, she drew on occasion and demonstrated in another medium her unique artistic voice. Her colourful works stand in stark contrast to her grey sculptures, but they share a certain warmth and her unique perspective.
Last year, MIA showcased Tasseor’s work as part of our “Focus On” series of exhibitions and many of those pieces are still on display inside our permanent exhibition area. We also installed a large sculpture of hers as a hands-on opportunity, so the next time you are here you can take a moment and closely examine her work. In addition to MIA, Tasseor’s work is included in many public collections, which is a testament to her skill as an artist.
Our condolences go out to her friends and family; she will certainly be missed.
- Posted by Alysa Procida, MIA’s Educational Coordinator