Annie Pootoogook: “I paint what I see.”


The Canadian Art Community lost a powerful Inuit painter when Annie Pootoogook’s body was found in Ottawa’s Rideau River on September 19, 2016. She was only 46 years of age and foul play is not suspected.

Pootoogook’s work was first introduced to me by Pat Feheley of Feheley’s Fine Arts in Toronto. Pootoogook was one of the group of young artists who were on the cutting edge of chronicling what it meant to be Inuit in the late 20th century. The images they created were often not always pleasant, not many swimming bears and frolicking seals.

Pootoogook was always very reflective of her practice and considered herself to be, first and foremost, an artist from a line of painters. She painted to record what she saw around her; she painted to make money to buy food for herself and her family. She did not hunt; she painted. She painted the everyday objects and activities around her. These objects could be keys, glasses, or clocks; the activities could be preparing food, watching television, smashing alcohol bottles, or domestic abuse. Pootoogook claimed that her drawing made bad things disappear, never to return.

One of the supposedly good things which happened to Pootoogook was winning the Sobey Art Award and its $50,000.00 prize money. This “good” thing quickly became a bad thing and Pootoogook ending up on the streets of Ottawa flogging her drawings for booze money for her boyfriend. The trajectory of Pootoogook’s life sadly mimics that of many Native-Canadian communities.

Pootoogook once commented, “Some times, I am very proud of myself.” Maybe, September 19, 2016 was not one of those times.

To enhance your understanding of Pootoogook, check out the following:

“The Remarkable Life of Annie Pootoogook” by Robert Everett-Green and Gloria Galloway.

The 2006 short documentary film on Pootoogook by Katherine Knight and Marcia Connolly.

The 02/07/2016 article by James Adams on the career of Jutai Toonoo

Thanks for your attention.
Tom Maunder,

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