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i u a pi pu pa ti tu ta ki ku ka gi gu ga mi mu ma ni nu na si su sa li lu la ji ju ja vi vu va ri ru ra qi qu qa ngi ngu nga lhi lhu lha

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Jessie Oonark Oc, Rca , ᔪᓯ ᐃᓇ

UNTITLED (WOMAN), 1972-1975

Jessie Oonark ᔪᓯ ᐃᓇ, OC, RCA (1906-1985), Qamani’tuaq (Baker Lake)

UNTITLED (WOMAN), 1972-1975

wool, felt, thread, embroidery floss
, signed in syllabics verso

50 x 32 in — 127 x 81.3 cm

Collection of Canadian Arctic Producers, Ottawa, ON
Private Collection, Connecticut, USA

Art Gallery of Ontario, The People Within (Toronto: Yorkville Press, 1976), unpaged, pl. 53.

An artist of exceptionally fertile imagination and seemingly boundless creative energy, Jessie Oonark produced a truly remarkable body of drawings, prints and nivingajuliat (wall hangings) over her long career.

A departure from conventions of square and rectangular presentation, the present remarkable nivingajuliat, Untitled (Woman in Amauti) is a striking example from a period of experimentation in the early to mid-1970s in which Oonark investigated a series of unconventional nivingajuliat profiles, including ulus, human figures, and snow beaters. (1)

Raised by her three-times windowed mother and close relatives, an observant young Oonark learned many traditional lifeways from elders that would inform her later imagery. (2) As in the artist’s iconic print Woman from 1970, in Untitled (Woman in Amauti) Oonark has been meticulous in her translation of the three-dimensional amauti and its ritual designs into the two-dimensional imagery of the nivingajuliat.

It is notable that the abstraction and symmetry for which Oonark’s art is known is one of the defining characteristics of traditional amauti designs. In the present work Oonark has carried the amautiit compositional elements over into her portrayal of the young woman wearing it. Both figure and garment are near fully symmetrical, and united in the artist’s use of vibrant colour.

Figural profile nivingajuliat by Oonark are exceptionally uncommon. One known example was exhibited in the 1986 Winnipeg Art Gallery Jessie Oonark a Retrospective. A second, collected in Qamani'tuaq (Baker Lake) in 1981 was sold at Waddington’s, June 9, 2022. Both known examples depict men whose faces are seen in side-profile. The present nivingajuliat is remarkable for its front profile depiction of a young woman.

Formerly in the collection of Canadian Arctic Producers, Untitled (Woman in Amauti) has not been seen publicly since it was displayed in the Art Gallery of Ontario’s exhibition The People Within, held in 1976.

(1) Jean Blodgett and Marie Bouchard, Jessie Oonark: A Retrospective (Winnipeg: Winnipeg Art Gallery, 1986), 65.
(2) Blodgett and Bouchard, Jessie Oonark, 8.

Related Works:
Waddington's Auctioneers, Toronto, ON, 9 Jun 2022, lot 83.

Estimate: $30,000—40,000

Auction Results

Auction Date Auction House Lot # Low Est High Est Sold Price
2024-05-29 Waddington's 110 30,000 40,000 25,000.00

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