Nancy Campbell first encountered Annie Pootoogook’s drawings at a small exhibition of Pootoogook’s work at Toronto’s Feheley Art Gallery in 2003.
A year later, Campbell proposed a solo show at the Powerplant Gallery, where she was curator. It finally came to fruition in 2006. Pootoogook visited Toronto for the first time for the show.
Pootoogook was from Cape Dorset, Nunavut. She had broken with artistic practices associated with that community’s Kinngait Studios, opting to depict contemporary scenes of Northern life.
“At that time, she was in her 30s, she was making work that was a little bit different than what we have come to understand as what Inuit art should look like,” said Campbell.
Campbell continued to work with Pootoogook and to follow her career over the next 10 years, and now a year and a half after Pootoogook’s death, she has put together a biography of the Inuk artist.
Companion to exhibition
Annie Pootoogook: Cutting Ice will be released Feb. 20, a week after her retrospective exhibition of the same name closes at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection, northwest of Toronto.
Curators at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection approached Campbell with the idea of an exhibition and companion book shortly after Pootoogook’s death.
Campbell has a PhD in art history. She focused on contemporary Inuit drawings, and on Pootoogook and her cousin, artist Shuvinai Ashoona. She says without the 15 years she spent working on the material, she would not have been ready with the book so quickly.
However, she says she’s glad she didn’t dive into it right after Pootoogook’s death.
“After she died, I was so sad, as many were, and I didn’t know what to do with it all,” she said.
“I didn’t really speak to any press. It was so complex, the story, with so many highs and so…