Cape Dorset’s Annie Pootoogook wins prestigious art award

Honor for outstanding new artist comes with $50,000 in cash


Canada’s art community gathered last week at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts to honour Annie Pootoogook of Cape Dorset.
Pootoogook, 37, won the 2006 Sobey Art Award, given to outstanding new artists.

Pootoogook is known for her realistic portraits of northern life, which show everything from family violence to a red bra or hunters dividing up a whale.

“Annie Pootoogook’s work reflects both the current moment of a specific tradition and of a contemporary drawing practice,” explained museum curators and Sobey Award jury members. “There’s really a lot to celebrate in the work of this artist.”

In accepting the award, she thanked God and her parents. She also remembered her little brother, who recently passed away.

“I was excited,” Pootoogook said about the award. “They like my work, so I was happy.”

Pootoogook has been working with the West Baffin Cooperative since 1997. Her drawings and prints portray life in today’s Arctic, a world with television, soda pop, video games, clocks and light switches.

In an interview from Toronto, Pootoogook said her art shows “good stories and bad times.”

“Mother falling with child” depicts Pootoogook’s split from her partner, who is trying to pull her child away from her and out of her amauti.

Pootoogook said one of her favourite drawings is called “Pitseolak drawing with two girls on bed.” This shows Pootoogook, her mother, Napatchie Pootoogook, and grandmother, Pitseolak Ashoona — all of them artists.

Pitseolak, who died in 1983, was bedridden during the last years of her life. In this drawing, Pootoogook and her mother sit on Pitseolak’s bed, watching her draw.

Pootoogook said she works hard at her art, spending long hours at work to finish one drawing.

She was selected for the Sobey Art Award from among five short-listed artists from across Canada.

The Sobey Art Award is Canada’s top art award for young artists. The award gives $50,000 to an artist under 40 who has had a show in a public or commercial art gallery within 18 months of being nominated.

This past summer, Pootoogook had more than 50 works hanging in two shows running simultaneously in Toronto, at Feheley Fine Arts and The Power Plant contemporary art gallery. Pootoogook then spent the next two months in Scotland as part of the Glenfiddich Artist Residency, where she joined artists from the United States, Africa, France and Scotland.

Next summer, Pootoogook is one of the Canadian artists selected for the Documenta show in Kassel, Germany, which is said to be the most prestigious of international contemporary art exhibitions.

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