Myra Kukiiyaut


Myra Kukiiyaut

Name:
Myra Kukiiyaut (1929-2006)
Gender:
Female
Style:
Inuit
Region:
Baker Lake, Nunavut, Canada

“Myra Kukiiyaut was born in Baker Lake, Northwest Territories, Canada, where her father worked for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, but was raised on the land where she lived a traditional nomadic existence subsisting on caribou and fish, living in an igloo in winter and a caribou skin tent in summer. Kukiiyaut, along with her young daughter and newborn son, moved permanently to Baker Lake in 1957 after her husband, artist Luke Argna’naaq, became ill with tuberculosis and was evacuated from their camp. He was hospitalized in the South, where he remained for the next three years, leaving Kukiiyaut and her children dependent on government relief.

“To supplement her income Kukiiyaut sewed traditional clothing for sale to local white people. She experimented with art making for the first time in 1960, when the federal government established an arts and crafts program in Baker Lake. She made small carvings and crafts. Her sculpture was included in the exhibition, ‘Eskimo Fantastic Art,’ mounted in 1972 at Gallery 111 in Winnipeg, Manitoba. She also made a tentative attempt at drawing in 1967 but did not pursue this medium in earnest until artists Jack and Sheila Butler, advisors for the arts and crafts program, arrived in 1969. Over the years Kukiiyaut has developed primarily as a graphic artist and printmaker but has also experimented with wall-hangings and weaving in recent years.

“From the outset Kukiiyaut favored depicting abstract concepts—’The Wind’ (1971), ‘Dreaming’ (1972), ‘As It Is Given, So We Accept’ (1973) are the subjects of her early prints. Her subject matter is derived from memories of traditional songs, legends, and beliefs, as well as from her own astute observation of the world around her. According to Kukiiyaut, the enchanting, flowing, rhythmic forms characteristic of her work originate from the fluid shapes found in nature—cloud formations floating across an expanse of clear, blue sky; wind-swept figures and their shadows, spilled juice on the linoleum floor.

“Kukiiyaut draws in a subliminal fashion: I just start drawing and then it becomes different from what I thought I was going to draw. Encouraged with this freedom of expression, and under nurturing eye Kukiiyaut developed a distinctive, highly personal style.”

Marie Bouchard in “North American Women Artists of the Twentieth Century: A Biographical Dictionary”, 1995

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