Friday, May 13, 2011

Jamasie Pitesolak preview at

I had never heard of Cape Dorset artist Jamasie Pitseolak until recently, but when I saw images of sculptures related to his just-opened solo show at Marion Scott Gallery in Vancouver, my interest was definitely piqued: An Easy Rider–worthy serpentinite motorcycle that flaunts the head of an Inuit sea goddess. A stone-carved Fender guitar whose ivory inlays include an ice-floe evoking polar bear. A portrait of a Nunavut artist comprised of an inukshuk-decorated chair and a caribou-antler camera.

Fun stuff! So I chatted with him on the phone a bit this week and wrote up a previewy thing that went up at yesterday. An excerpt:

“When I started carving, I was doing traditional pieces,” says Pitseolak over the phone from his home in Cape Dorset. “I felt at that time I wasn’t really connecting with my inner soul, if you will. So I started doing electric guitars, and from there it kind of snowballed. I guess I wasn’t seeing myself excelling doing those traditional pieces because everyone is doing it, you know?”

Of course, there are other Cape Dorset artists doing "nontraditional" work that has been picked up on the "down south" contemporary-art radar: Annie Pootoogook, whose revealing domestic-scene drawings made her winner of the 2006 Sobey Award; Shuvinai Ashoona, whose fantastical montages were recently shown in the Canadian Biennial; and Samonie Toonoo, whose dark sculptures were the toast of Toronto last summer. And the current survey Inuit Modern at the AGO traces the diversity of this genre.

Still, Pitseolak's work does stand out from "traditional" Inuit carving. There's also a couple of quite sombre works in the show, which is a suprise given his usually humorous and lighthearted take. I found these prints very raw and painful to look at, and also very important. To learn about those, read on at

Only a few images were in the article, so I'm posting more below:

Jamasie Pitseolak's Peter Pitseolak's Chair

Jamasie Pitseolak's Dad's Guitar (he says this is a couple of feet long, not full-size; he doesn't play guitar, but his dad does)

Jamasie Pitseolak's Lace Me Up

Jamasie Pitseolak's Two Barrel Shotgun

Jamasie Pitseolak's My Second Grader

More images are viewable at Marion Scott Gallery and Spirit Wrestler Gallery.

(Lead image of Jamasie Pitseolak's Sedna Chopper via; all images courtesy of the artist and Marion Scott Gallery)


Anonymous said...


Leah Sandals said...

Hi Anonymous,

Um... I'm not the best with one-word questions, but from what I can tell you might be upset with the use of the word genre in the piece.

I'd say that's superfair as it's really not the best word to use.

Is that what you're getting at? Feel free to clarify.