McMichael - Canadian Art | Collection d'art Canadien

Kenojuak AshevakA Tribute to an Important Canadian Artist

The McMichael Canadian Art Collection wishes to acknowledge with sadness the recent passing of notable Canadian artist, Kenojuak Ashevak.

Kenojuak Ashevak is perhaps the best-known Inuit artist for her iconic birds and especially her print The Enchanted Owl. The first woman to become involved with the newly established printmaking shop at Cape Dorset, Kenojuak began drawing in the late 1950s. Over the years, her original drawings have inspired about 200 prints. Her art is characterized by a strong sense of composition, colour, design and draughtsmanship. Although best known as a graphic artist, she was also a printmaker, sculptor, painter and seamstress.

During her lifetime, Kenojuak received many awards and honours including the Companion of the Order of Canada (1982) and member in the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts (1974). She was featured in a National Film Board film in 1962 and in a limited-edition book published in 1981. Her artwork has been reproduced on Canadian postage stamps and a coin. She was the recipient of a Lifetime National Aboriginal Achievement Award and two honourary doctorates, and was an inductee into Canada’s Walk of Fame. She was awarded a Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts in 2008. As a participant in many exhibitions, Kenojuak travelled extensively to southern Canada (including Kleinburg) and Europe.

Kenojuak had a long history with the McMichael gallery. In 1986, the McMichael organized the first retrospective of her work, curated by Jean Blodgett and covering 30 years. The artist was present for the opening. Her drawings, prints and sculpture have been exhibited in group and solo shows at the gallery since that time. The Cape Dorset Archival Collection on loan to the MCAC from the West Baffin Eskimo Co-operative includes over 2,000 drawings and 300 prints by Kenojuak. In 2007, the gallery was honoured to celebrate Kenojuak’s 80th birthday while she was artist-in-residence for the “Celebrate Inuit Art” festival. Her final visit to the McMichael was in 2009 with fellow Cape Dorset artists, Kananginak Pootoogook, Shuvinai Ashoona and Ningeokuluk Teevee.

Memorial tribute to Kenojuak Ashevak

On Saturday, February 16, a memorial talk was held at the McMichael to pay tribute to Ashevak who passed away on January 8, 2013.
Pat Feheley of Feheley Fine Arts introduced art critic and curator Sarah Milroy and former Director of Dorset Fine Arts, Terry Ryan who discussed Kenojuak's remarkable life and extraordinary contribution to Canadian art. 
The McMichael's current exhibtion project Exploring Cape Dorset Art is dedicated to the memory of Kenojuak and includes a small memorial display. 

Exploring Cape Dorset Art consists of three exhibitions of Inuit prints and sculpture from the 1950s to present, which highlight the rich artistic community of those living in the northern territory of Nunavut and its prolific contribution to the documentation of Inuit life and traditions, for over half a century.


"There is no word for art. We say it is to transfer something from the real to the unreal. I am an owl, and I am a happy owl. I like to make people happy and everything happy. I am the light of happiness and I am a dancing owl."

Kenojuak Ashevak
(Landmarks of Canadian Art by Peter Mellen; McLelland & Stewart, 1978)


  • Kenojuak Ashevak at McMichael for Celebrate Inuit Art, Oct. 14, 2007 - Photo by Linda Morita

  • Kenojuak Ashevak at the McMichael with 1968 photo by Norman Hallendy of Kenojuak and husband Johnniebo Ashevak, 19 Oct. 2009 - Photo by Linda Morita

  • David Ruben Piqtoukun and Kenojuak Ashevak at Celebrate Inuit Art, McMichael Canadian Art Collection, Oct. 2007 - Photo by Linda Morita

  • Kenojuak Ashevak, daughter Silaaqqi, Jimmy Manning at Celebrate Inuit Art, McMichael Canadian Art Collection, 12 Oct. 2007 - Photo by Linda Morita



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Related Links

Traditional Stories: Unikkaaqtuat/Modern Stories: Unikkaat
August 28, 2010 to January 20, 2011

Nunannguaq: In the Likeness of the Earth
October 10, 2009 to January 17, 2010

Kenojuak: From Drawing to Print
August 30 to November 30, 2008

Stones, Bones and Stitches
September 29, 2007 to March 30, 2008

KINNGAIT - Highlights from the Collection
October 7, 2006 to February 18, 2007

Art!Facts - Kenojuak Ashevak, Enchanted Owl

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