North, South, Alone and Togetherness: A Portrait of the Inuit Artist

Even in an interview with the Globe and Mail, Pitsulak showed how uncomfortable he was being singled out in a one-on-one interview with Globe and Mail’s former art critic Sarah Milroy, who wrote:

Where southern artists, like southerners in general, are conditioned to accept the assumption of artificial intimacy that comes with the interview process, Pitsiulak clearly finds it undignified.

When asked on the possibilities of teaching, he replied:“When I started drawing, I never looked at anyone else. I did this all by myself, and that is what other people should do: find their own style.”Pitsuilak is a self-taught artist, who feels that the judgment of others is not his responsibility.

This is where the Inuit artist differs from the one constructed in Western popular culture: the Inuit artist can never be separated from their culture, family or surroundings. There is no creative self-involved bubble, there is instead the community. Pitsuilak; with Inuit artists Shuvinai Ashoona, Jutai Toonoo, Itee Pootoogook, and Ohotaq Mikkigak; works in the Kinngait Studios, a art coop set up in the 1950s by federal funding secured by the adventurer James Houston

Not only is art done with the support of their family and colleagues, but it is also profitable and sustainable. The Kinngait Art Coop creates the sustainable infrastructure that the artists need to make a living. When a piece sells, the profits are distributed amongst the artist and the coop, so money trickles down to the places and people who need it.

Artists and others in the industry make up most of the 1,363 people in Cape Dorset, a unique community where art is the primary industry. This is like a living breathing Montmatre, Paris in the 1880s… but in this case, a lot colder.

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