Annie Pootoogook took the Canadian art world by storm when she arrived on the scene with her drawings of daily life in Cape Dorset, a community also known by its Inuktitut name, Kinngait. A succession of fast-paced years brought one exhibition opportunity after another. From curator Nancy Campbell’s first presentation of her work in a solo exhibition at Feheley Fine Arts in Toronto in 2003, Pootoogook showed at the Power Plant, did a residency in Scotland, won the 2006 Sobey Prize, participated in the Documenta 12 exhibition in Germany in 2007, and wrapped a touring solo exhibition at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian in New York. She was the poster child for a new spirit of art from Canada’s north and for the expansion of international connections for contemporary Canadian artists.
In her fine catalogue essay for “Annie Pootoogook: Kinngait Compositions” at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre in Kingston, curator Jan Allen reminds us what all the fuss was about and at the same time refocuses our attention on Pootoogook’s remarkable chronicle of life lived in a small Nunavut community which has been a cornerstone for Inuit art production. Allen’s catalogue should be on its way to awards for its succinct yet sensitive summary of Pootoogook’s contribution to both contemporary Canadian art and her people’s art. The show, with 52 drawings, is its own gem as we watch an artist come to grips with her heritage, her family, her friends and an invasive consumer culture moving in from the south. It’s a personal statement wrapped around a historical moment and it stands as a testament to the lasting value of a vulnerable art that means much more than the framework of its art-world success.