Every year I prepare skins, sew clothing, make soapstone carvings and I have also been drawing since the time they started buying drawings. I will put all of my abilities towards what needs doing, as long as my abilities are available to me. There are times when it is difficult if I’ve not yet learned how to do something. But as we are the only ones living at our outpost camp I do get things done! There has never been anyone there to answer my questions, so I’ve had to learn how to do things and make things on my own. – Mayoreak Ashoona, from Inuit Women Artists, 1994.
Born in Baffin Island to the acclaimed graphic artist Sheouak Parr, Mayoreak was one of the only women to participate in the early drawing projects of 1950s, and started drawing and carving in 1963. She is one of the few selected female artists featured in the acclaimed book, Inuit Women Artists, Published in 1994. And her beautiful print, Great Big Loon, was selected to feature in the 50 year anniversary poster in celebration of Cape Dorset’s Printmaking Program.
For a very long time Mayoreak lived at an outpost camp and being great distances away from people demands self-sufficiency. This required an income to provide for necessities. So Mayoreak took up carving as well as drawing because it made economic sense to do so and also kept herself occupied. Mayoreak’s carvings are very dynamic and strong and have a uniquely feminine perspective in their rendering as do her drawings. You can see the influences from her background in the art she produces. Ashoona draws in a variety of styles (including abstract) and the figures that she produces are engaged in a variety of activities. Ashoona has, in the context of her paintings and drawings, an ability to explore, to work and capture the essence and master techniques of abstract or figurative representation through symmetry and balance.*
*Reflections on Mayoreak Ashoona from a telephone interview conducted with Robert Kussy (son-in-law of Kiawak Ashoona), at the Inuit Art Centre, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada. November 2002.
Mayoreak and her husband, Kaka, also an accomplished artist, moved back to the land in the late 1970’s to return to a more traditional lifestyle.
Drawing since the 1960s, Ashoona is primarily known as a graphic artist with many of her works being turned into prints for the Cape Dorset Annual Print Collections. Many of Ashoona’s more well-known drawings are done in ink and coloured pencil, with works such as Tuulirjuaq (Great Big Loon) showcasing the artist’s precision with finely drawn lines and carefully etched details. Mayoreak’s Loon Etching was reproduced for a poster commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Cape Dorset print collection in 2009.
Ashoona’s work has been in exhibitions internationally across Canada, Germany and Japan. Her work has appeared in the Cape Dorset Annual Print Collection and was part of the Uuturautiit: Cape Dorset Celebrates 50 Years of Printmaking at the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, ON in 2010. In 2003 she was elected to the Royal Canadian Academy. Ashoona has appeared in various publications including multiple times in the Inuit Art Quarterly.
(Information provided by Inuit Art Foundation)