Searching for Kenojuak


Enchantment2bw2.jpg

There is no word for art. We say it is to transfer something from the real to the unreal. I am an owl, and I am a happy owl. I like to make people happy and everything happy. I am the light of happiness and I am a dancing owl.

Kenojuak Ashevak (McLelland & Stewart, 1978)

This Friday, October 18, the 2013 Cape Dorset Annual Print Collection will be released. Undoubtedly, many art enthusiasts will find their dream print. Fortunately, I (and my bank account) can rest assured knowing that I have already found mine.

It only took 20 months of searching.

Here’s how it happened...

I was first exposed to the renowned Cape Dorset prints while in Iqaluit during 2011. I was in town as part of my Master’s research, and decided to stop by the local museum to see the artwork on display. With the entire showroom to myself, I browsed through the various prints of dancing walruses, mythical spirits, tricky ravens, and other northern imagery.

Then I saw a vibrant red owl - rather quizzical looking.

Love at First Sight
Love at First Sight

I fell in love with it immediately. My eyes darted toward the tag.

“Enchantment” (So mystical!) Kenojuak Ashevak (How do I pronounce that?) $1,800 (Way beyond my graduate student budget...) Sold (Well. That’s that.)

I spoke with the Manager/Curator about the print, and he told me it had been very popular during the sale in October. Although he said I might be able to track one down, he definitely did not get my hopes up. With only 50 prints made, I had much doubt. He graciously allowed me to take a photo of it, and then I walked away.

Over the next year, I haphazardly looked for the print online to no avail. I tried to compensate by setting my mediocre photo as my desktop image and cell phone background. It wasn't enough.

By the time the 2012 Annual Print Collection was available, I was a (semi) permanent resident of Iqaluit. I was determined to go find a new dream print. Again, I visited the museum and browsed through the collection. There were some beautiful prints covering the walls, yet none of them had the same effect on me.

The disappointment of not finding a consolatory print reinvigorated my online search. Unfortunately, I had visited most of the websites already. I managed to find a few seemingly available copies, but inevitably it was an inventory error or an outdated website. I shamelessly emailed each and every possible lead. Nothing.

Then, on January 8, 2013, Kenojuak Ashevak passed away. Her passing marked “the end of an era for Inuit art.” For those of you who have not yet heard of her, Kenojuak Ashevak was the most famous and last remaining member of the original group of artists that worked with James Houston to establish the West Baffin Eskimo Co-operative. She contributed greatly to the international reputation of the Cape Dorset Print Collection. Her artwork was even featured on a Canadian stamp – recognize it?!

Alas, I figured I should give up my search. If I had not found the print already, there was little chance I would find it now. Even if I did find it, the price would surely be inflated beyond my means.

I let it go...

Then, after hiking Mount Washington during my summer vacation back home, I arrived back at my car, checked my phone, read an email, and gasped aloud.

... It came to me.

Lucky #4! It was fate! I will be forever indebted to Gallery Gevik and its fantastic staff. If you're ever in Toronto, be sure to check it out.

Two weeks later, it arrived.

Voila:

Enchantment

Enchantment

So, I found my dream print – perhaps you will find yours? The upcoming 2013 Annual Print Collection consists of 32 images by 11 artists. This includes seven final works by the iconic Kenojuak Ashevak. It also includes several prints by the up-and-coming artists from Cape Dorset.

For my friends in Montreal, you can check out the collection at the Canadian Guild of Crafts on October 18th.

For my friends in Iqaluit, I'll see you at the Nunatta Sunakkutaangit Museum on October 19th for the sale and the best fresh bannock in town.

Oh, and if you happen to stumble upon one that catches your eye, I have taken the liberty of narrowing down your ensuing search. Here are the lists of each and every dealer in possession of the prints in both Canada and America. Good luck!

Shout out to James Rogers for the photos of my precious print.