Tag Archives: Annie Pootoogook

Art, Responsibility and Stereotypes

14 Oct

It’s no secret that stereotypes of Aboriginal peoples exist, as distressing or damaging as they can be, and that these ideas can manifest themselves in many different forms. The best take I have seen on stereotypes related to Inuit is the short film Sloth, by Inuit filmmaker Alethea Arnaquq-Baril. It’s only two minutes long, but pokes fun at both historical and modern popular views of Inuit:

The point of this post isn’t to get into why stereotypes form, but to point out that they are damaging and pervasive. This has become extremely clear in recent press coverage of acclaimed Inuit artist, Annie Pootoogook.

Annie Pootoogook

Annie Pootoogook in 2009 via Nunatsiaq News

We, like many of you, have been reading stories about Annie for a number of years. Her art has been internationally exhibited; she was the winner of the prestigious Sobey Art Award in 2006; and had broken many other barriers for contemporary Inuit artists. But recently, she has been the subject of a different kind of press attention, one not focused on her art but on her personal life. I won’t link to the series of articles in question, but Annie has fallen on hard times and the response to her personal circumstances has been varied, but often is heavily steeped in stereotypical views of Aboriginal peoples and artists.

For example, numerous comparisons have been made between Annie and Ahnisnabae artist Norval Morrisseau (whose son Christian’s work we are exhibiting currently in our Aboriginal Voices Gallery). Presumably, this is because they were both “troubled”, but I find  it noteworthy that no other, non-Aboriginal artist’s name is invoked. Surely there have been “troubled” artists (and people, for that matter) of many different backgrounds.

Like many museums, we have exhibited Annie’s work before  though at present we do not have any on display. We still feel that Annie is an important voice in contemporary art and that her work needs to be considered on its artistic merits. We also take very seriously our role in displaying art sensitively and in promoting accurate information about the artists whose work we represent.

We have, however, been admittedly reticent to discuss the recent news coverage of her life because it was not directly related to her artwork and, frankly, struck our staff as problematically represented. However, some of our visitors have wanted to discuss this with us and with each other and so we felt that we should open up this space for conversation:

Do you think stereotypes of artists or Aboriginal peoples influence the way we see and speak about an artist’s work? Who do you think bears responsibility for breaking down these views? Do you think we could do more to directly confront these issues?

– Posted by: Alysa Procida, MIA’s Director of Education, Operations and Outreach

Note: Please be mindful of our commenting policy, which we strictly enforce.

Printmaking 101 with Karolina!

5 Dec

One of the great parts of working at the Museum of Inuit art is the amount of art that you get to see on a daily basis. I have always had a passion for graphics and am really impressed by a lot of prints! So much so that I wanted to examine the process for myself and learn how it’s done. Turns out, it is quite the labor intensive process but also quite fun!! There are many types of printmaking methods that are in use today. Originally when printmaking began in the North, a lot of the prints were the result of stonecuts.  A drawing would be carved into the surface of a flat stone and then a roller is used to apply the ink to the surface. The image itself is left in relief so as to pick up the ink and the negative space is chiseled away from the stone. A paper is placed and rubbed over the entire inked stone to create the image transfer. Woodcuts are another form of printmaking and work much the same way but instead of carving into stone, wood is used. Now printmaking technology has advanced a great deal and various methods are in circulation. There are stencils, etchings, lithographs as well as mixed medium prints.

Recently I had the opportunity to take a course on printmaking methods offered at the Toronto Central Technical School where a variety of printmaking methods including linocut, etching and screen printing were demonstrated. Today, I will show you the process that goes into the creation of an etching.

In etching, a metal plate made of either steel, zinc or copper is used. The first step in etching is to prepare the plate. Often this involves filing down the sides of the plate and polishing the surface to create a smooth surface for working on.

Here I am filing the zinc plate down so that each edge is smooth and even all around.

Once the plate is ready it is covered in a waxy ground that is resistant to acid. The ground can then be scratched off or “etched” into with a variety of tools. Wherever the ground is removed and metal is exposed is where the design will result in the final print.

There are two types of ground that are typically used. Soft ground and hard ground. Hard ground dries before being etched into and soft ground remains malleable so that textures can be pressed into it.

Once the design is etched into the plate, the whole plate gets dunked into an acid bath.  The acid “bites” the exposed metal and creates lines and depth in the plate. The longer the plate remains in the acid, the more severe and deep the lines will be.

Safety first! Protective eyewear and gloves have to be worn when working with acid. Here I am running a feather along the surface of my plate to remove any bubbles that form as the acid "bites" the plate.

The next step in the process is to remove the excess ground and then go ahead and ink the plate. Ink is applied with cheesecloth or similar material in order to push it into the engraved lines. The excess is then removed from the plate which is now ready for printing.

Inking can take a long time, depending on how many colors are used. This one here is only using black ink.

The plate is then placed on a printing press, inked side up. The paper used for this type of printmaking is usually quite heavy such as watercolor paper. The paper is soaked in water and then the excess is squeezed out. The dampened paper is now ready to be placed on top of the plate. Next, a blanket is placed over top of everything and then the whole thing is pushed through a high pressure printing press.

Plate, damp paper and then the blanket get placed before being pushed through the press.

Once everything is pushed through, the blanket and paper is peeled off and Voila, a print is made! The process of inking and printing can be repeated many times which is how editioned prints come to be. A great example of an etching is Annie Pootoogook’s (1969-) print from 2003 entitled, “Interior/Exterior” which can be seen inside the Museum.

Ta da! The finished print being peeled off from the plate.

Posted by : Karolina Tomaszewska, MIA’s Development Officer

Greetings from MIA’s Development Officer!!!

28 Sep

Karolina Tomaszewska, Development Officer, with some fabulous prints! (Annie Pootoogook's "Interior/Exterior" and Elisapee Ishulataq's "Bridge in Pangnirtung")

Hi there! My name is Karolina Tomaszewska and I am thrilled to have taken on the role of Development Officer at the Museum of Inuit Art.  As MIA’s newest staff member I’d like to take this opportunity to properly introduce myself.

 I earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Art History and Law from Carleton University in Ottawa. That is where I was first introduced to Inuit art. Many faculty members were well versed about the field and the Carleton University Art Gallery was home to a fairly extensive collection of Inuit art in all its forms — prints, drawings, sculptures, and textiles. I fell in love with prints and drawings instantly and pursued my interest with post-graduate studies at Concordia University in Montreal. Currently, I’m on the final lap of my Master’s degree which focuses on the drawings of Annie and Napachie Pootoogook from the community of Kinngait. With such directed interests, it was only natural for me to find myself volunteering at MIA. Now as a staff member, I’m excited to develop and implement new strategies to enhance visitor experience and be part of a dynamic team of professionals.

When I’m not at MIA, I can be found reading too many books at once, making pierogies into the wee hours of the night and strolling around my neighborhood with my little Italian greyhound, Buckminster.