Printmaker: EEGYVUDLUK POOTOOGOOK (1931-1999) m., KINNGAIT (CAPE DORSET)
Inland Eskimo Woman, 1960 #62
stonecut, 21.5 x 12.5 in (54.6 x 31.8 cm)
Estimate: $8,000 — $12,000
Private Collection, Australia.
Jessie Oonark began drawing in 1959, encouraged by Dr. Andrew Macpherson, a biologist working for the Canadian Wildlife Service. Her drawings quickly aroused interest among government officials, and a half-dozen were sent by a Mrs. Edith Dodds to James Houston in Cape Dorset. Three of these (including Inland Eskimo Woman) were published in the 1960 and 1961 collections, listed as designed by “Una, Kazan River” (which was incorrect, since Oonark was from the Back River region, northwest of Baker Lake). They are the only non-local images ever published in Cape Dorset. It was not until 1970 that Oonark re-emerged as a star of the first Baker Lake print collection.
As a graphic image Inland Eskimo Woman is every bit as striking as Oonark’s famous stonecut and stencil Woman of ten years later (Baker Lake 1970 #14). Its proportions are as radically attenuated as Woman’s are broadened. It is a remarkable harbinger of things to come. We hate to think of a world without the art of Jessie Oonark, but even if she had never produced another drawing or hanging, Inland Eskimo Woman would rank as one of the most supremely elegant Inuit images ever conceived.
Oonark’s keen interest in clothing styles from different regions is well known. In an unpublished 1983 interview with Marion Jackson, Oonark identified the clothing style in this print as “sort of western coast – Gjoa Haven people” . That answer seems rather ambiguous, since Gjoa Haven is situated on King William Island – north, not west, of the Back River/Chantrey Inlet area of Oonark’s upbringing. It should be noted that earlier in that interview Oonark mentioned that her mother “was adopted from the Western Arctic people” . We wonder if the parka style depicted in this print might be a Copper Inuit (i.e. “Western Arctic”) design. For See Judy Hall et al (1994) for photos of a Copper Inuit woman’s amautiq with a short waist, long rear flap, and elongated hood (p. 33), and strikingly similar women’s stockings (p. 36). 
1. Marion E. Jackson, Transcripts of Interviews with Jessie Oonark and her Children (unpublished, Inuit Art Section, Indian & Northern Affairs Canada, Spring 1983) p. 13.
2. ibid., p. 2.
3. Judy Hall, Jill Oakes, and Sally Qimmiu’naaq Webster, Sanatujut: Pride in Women’s Work (Hull: Canadian Museum of Civilization, 1994).
References: This image has been fairly widely published, including in Bernadette Driscoll, The Inuit Amautik: I Like My Hood To Be Full (Winnipeg Art Gallery, 1980) cat. 89. For a later drawing by Oonark, Eskimo Family c. 1968-69, which depicts a similarly posed woman, see the National Museum of Man travelling exhibition catalogue Oonark-Pangnark (Ottawa: NMM, 1970) cat. 20.