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Tahiryuak Lake, Northwest Territories, 1901
Holman, Northwest Territories, 1984
Biography synopsis
Helen Kalvak (Kalvakadlak or Kralvak) was born near Tahiryuak Lake, on Victoria Island and moved into a settlement on Holman Island in 1960. During her childhood, she learned Inuit folklore, witchcraft and hunting from her parents, Aluksit and Ingataomik. She was first encouraged to draw in 1962 by Father Henry Tardy, an Oblate missionary who introduced graphic arts to the Holman community. She also received instruction from a teacher at the Co-operative. Between 1962 and 1978, Kalvak made more than 1,800 drawings. Most of her drawings represent Inuit life and women as healers, shape shifters and sorcerers. Her first print retrospective was held at the Canadian Guild of Craft in 1968 and two years later an exhibition of her drawings was held at the same place. Her work was included in several Inuit exhibitions, such as “The Coming and Going of the Shaman” in 1978 and “The Inuit Amautik” in 1980, both held at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. In 1975, she was elected member of the Canadian Royal Academy of Arts and nearly four years later she became a member of the Order of Canada. Kalvak's prints are part of the collections of the Toronto Dominion Bank, the Museum of Civilization, the Amon Carter Museum and the Winnipeg Art Gallery. Her granddaughter, Julie Manoyok Ekpakohak, is a contemporary artist.
Media used
Holman Eskimo Co-operative (under Rev. Father Henry Tardy)
Royal Canadian Academy of Arts, 1975
Order of Canada, 1978
File & Archive locations
University of Calgary Library, AB
Edmonton Art Gallery, AB - Library
University of British Columbia - Fine Arts Library
Winnipeg Art Gallery, MA - Clara Lander Library
National Gallery of Canada, ON - Library and Archives
Art Gallery of Ontario - Edward P. Taylor Research Library and Archives
Montreal Museum of Fine Arts / Musée des Beaux-Arts de Montréal, QC
Vancouver Art Gallery, BC - Library
Canadian Women Artists History Initiative Documentation Centre, QC
Canadian Museum of Civilization Archives, QC
Library and Archives Canada / Bibliothèque et Archives Canada, ON

Writings about
Biographies of Inuit Artists, Volumes One and Two. Ottawa: Canadian Arctic Producers, Arctic Co-operatives Limited, 1984.
"Artist Member of Order." News of the North (Jan. 1979).
"At Almost 70 Kalvak Became an Artist." Edmonton Journal 14 Mar. 1969.
"Clutesi-Kalvak Preserving Legends." Trentonian (24 Jun. 1977).
"Eskimo Artist Visits City With 'ulu' Show." Edmonton Journal 2 Mar. 1968.
"Helen Kalvak, Holman Island, NWT." Quintana Galleries: Indigenous Art 2010
"Holman Artists: Film, Grant and Exhibition." Inuvialuit (Fall 1982): 18-19.
"Inuit Artist - Tired But Alert." News/North (28 Nov. 1980).
"Kalvak, Helen, 1984." Globe and Mail (10 May 2005): S9.
"Leading Inuit Artist, Helen Kalvak Dies." Ottawa Citizen (10 May 1984).
"Obituaries: Helen Kalvak." Canadian News Facts 1984.
"Pioneer Inuit Artists Honored." Winnipeg Free Press (6 Feb. 1987): 31.
"Special Tribute to Inuit Artists." Vancouver Sun (7 Feb. 1987): H10.
Arctic Circle. The Story Tellers of Holman Island: A Retrospective Exhibition of Rare Stonecut Prints From 1968-1979. Los Angeles: The Arctic Circle, 1984.
Arts and Culture of the North (Organization). Arts and Culture of the North, Volumes 17-26. Madison, Wisconsin: Arts and Culture of the North, 1984.
Ayre, Robert. "This North Vision Remains as Vital." Montreal Star (18 Oct. 1969).
Berlo, Janet Catherine. "Drawing and Printmaking at Holman." Inuit Art Quarterly 10 (Fall 1995): 22-30.
Berlo, Janet Catherine. "Helen Kalvak." St. James Guide to Native North American Artists. Detroit: St. James Press, 1997.
Blodgett, Jean. Eskimo Narrative. Winnipeg: Winnipeg Art Gallery, 1979.
Blodgett, Jean. The Coming and Going of the Shaman: Eskimo Shamanism and Art. Winnipeg: Winnipeg Art Gallery, 1978.
Blodgett, Jean. The Coming and Going of the Shaman: Eskimo Shamanism and Art. Winnipeg: Winnipeg Art Gallery, 1978.
Burgess, Helen. "Eskimo Art From Holman." North 13.3 (May/June 1966): 12-16.
Burgess, Helen. "Eskimo Legends Told in Art Net $10,000." Globe and Mail (26 Jan. 1966).
Bushman, Leo. Kalvak. Calgary: University of Calgary, 1975.
Bushman, Leo. "Eskimo Art." Art Education 23.2 (Feb. 1970): 14-18.
Bushman, Leo. "Holman Island Art Evolves." Information North (Winter 1986): 7-8.
Bushman, Leo. "Kalvak (1901-1984)." Arctic: Journal of the Arctic Institute of North America 41.1 (March 1988): 72-74.
Canadian Arctic Producers Limited. Shamans and Spirits: Myths and Medical Symbolism in Eskimo Art. Ottawa: National Museum of Man, 1977-1982.
Centre for Contemporary Canadian Art. Helen Kalvak 2010
Clifford E. Lee Collection of Prints. Inuit Games and Contests. Edmonton, Alberta: University of Alberta Press, 1978.
Collinson, Helen et al. Inuit Games and Contests: The Clifford E. Lee Collection of Prints. Edmonton, Alberta: University of Alberta Press, 1978.
Colombo, John Robert. Colombo's Canadian References. Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1976.
Condon, Richard G. & Ogina, Julia. The Northern Copper Inuit: A History. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1996.
Cook, Sharon Anne, et al., eds. Framing Our Past: Canadian Women's History in the 20th Century. Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2001.
Crandall, Richard C. Inuit Art: A History. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland, 2000.
Desjardins, Marie-Paule. Dictionnaire biographique des femmes célèbres et rémarquables de notre histoire. Montréal: Guérin, 2007.
Driscoll, Bernadette. Inuit Myths, Legends and Songs. Winnipeg: Winnipeg Art Gallery, 1982.
Driscoll, Bernadette. Kalvak/Emerak Memorial Catalogue. Holman Island: Holman Eskimo Co-op, 1987.
Driscoll-Engelstad, Bernadette. The Inuit Amautik: I Like My Hood to Be Full. Winnipeg: Winnipeg Art Gallery, 1980.
Friesen, John W. & Virginia Lyons. Canadian Aboriginal Art and Spirituality. Calgary: Detselig Enterprises, 2006.
Furneaux, Patrick & Rosshandler, Leo. Arts of the Eskimos: Prints. Montreal: Signum Press and Oxford University Press, 1974.
Government of Canada. Canadian Aboriginal Art at the Senate. Ottawa: Government of Canada, 2007.
Gray, Philip Howard. Directory of Eskimo Artists in Sculpture and Prints. Bozeman, Montana: Philip Howard Gray, 1974.
Great Plains Instructional Television Library et al. Kalvak. Lincoln, Nebraska: Great Plains Instructional Television Library, 1970.
Halpern, Joel Martin. Perspectives on Inuit Culture: A Five College Symposium and Art Exhibit, April 4-14, 1988. Michigan: Five College Canadian Studies Program, 1989.
Heller, Jules and Nancy. North American Women Artists of the Twentieth Century. New York: Garland, 1995.
Hessel, Ingo and Dieter. Inuit Art: An Introduction. Michigan: Harry N. Abrams, 1998.
Hobson, George D. "Helen Kalvak: 1901-1984 (Obit.)." Musk-ox 33 (Winter 1983): 94.
Holman Eskimo Cooperative. Annual Holman Island Print Catalogues: 1965-1985. Holman Island: Holman Eskimo Cooperative, 1985.
Holman Eskimo Cooperative. Eskimo Graphic Art, 1968: Kalvak, Ohoveluk, Nanogak, Papidluk. Holman Island, Northwest Territories: Holman Eskimo Cooperative, 1968.
Howell, David. "Life & Times: Father Henri Tardu Helped a Hamlet in N.W.T. Show its Art to the World." Edmonton Journal (3 Mar. 2004): B1.
Indian and Northern Affairs Canada. Inuit Art Bibliography. Ottawa: Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, 1992.
Indian and Northern Affairs Canada. The Western Arctic Claim: A Guide to the Inuvialuit Final Agreement. Ottawa: Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, 1984.
International Tele-Film Enterprises. Kalvak. Toronto: International Tele-Film Enterprises, 1975.
Inuit Art Foundation. "The Artist: Kalvak, Helen." Inuit Art Alive 2010
Jackson, Marion E. & Judith Nasby. Contemporary Inuit Drawings. Guelph, Ontario: MacDonald Stewart Art Centre, 1987.
Jackson, Marion Elizabeth ed. Patiently I Sing: Selections From the Tyler/Brooks Collection of Inuit Art. Ottawa: Carleton University Art Gallery, 1994.
Jerusalem Artists' House Museum. Polar Vision: Canadian Eskimo Graphics. Jerusalem: Na'amat, 1978.
La Fédération des Coopératives du Nouveau-Québec. Povungnituk 1973 Prints/Estampes. La Fédération des Coopératives du Nouveau-Québec, 1973.
Laliberté, Norman & Mogelon, Alex. Silhouettes, Shadows and Cutouts: History and Modern Use. Michigan: Reinhold Book Corp, 1968.
Larmour, W.T. Inuit: The Art of the Canadian Eskimo. Ottawa: Indian and Northern Development, 1967.
Lester, Patrick D. "Kalvak, Helen: Inuit." The Biographical Directory of Native American Painters. University of Oklahoma Press, 1995.
Lipton, Barbara. Arctic Vision: Art of the Canadian Inuit: A Traveling Exhibition. Canadian Arctic Producers, 1984.
MacDonald, Colin S. The Dictionary of Canadian Artists. (Volumes 1-8 by Colin S. MacDonald, and volume 9 by Anne Newlands and Judith Parker) Ottawa: National Gallery of Canada, 2009.
Marsh, James, ed. Canadian Encyclopedia Online. Historical Foundation, 2009
Matuz, Roger. St. James Guide to Native North American Artists. Detroit: St. James Press, 1998.
McGrath, Robin. "More than Meets the Eye: The Clothing Motif in Inuit Legends and Art." Inuit Art Quarterly 8.4 (Winter 1993): 16-23.
McMann, Evelyn de Rostaing. Royal Canadian Academy of Arts/Académie royale des arts du Canada: Exhibitions and Members 1880-1979. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1981.
McMaster, Gerald et al. In the Shadow of the Sun: Perspectives on Contemporary Native Art. Hull, Quebec: Canadian Museum of Civilization, 1993.
Métayer, Maurice. Contes de mon iglou. Québec: Ministère des richesses naturelles, 1972.
Metayer, Maurice & Nanogak, Agnes (ill.). Tales From the Igloo. Edmonton, Alberta: Hurtig, 1972.
Minion, Robin. Inuit Art and Artists. Edmonton, Alberta: Boreal Institute for Northern Studies, 1986.
Moore, Charles. "The Strong Hand of a Master: Helen Kalvak." Friends (Winter 1990).
National Museum of Man. The Inuit Print. Ottawa: National Museum of Man, 1977-1982.
Newlands, Anne. Canadian Paintings, Prints and Drawings. Buffalo, New York and Richmond Hill: Firefly Books, 2007.
Norman Mackenzie Art Gallery. The Jacqui and Morris Shumiatcher Collection of Inuit Artists. Regina, Saskatchewan: Norman Mackenzie Art Gallery, 1981.
Okpik, Abraham. Abraham Okpik's Inuit Oral History Collection. Riveredge Foundation, 1979.
Ray, Dorothy J. & Thomson, Jane S. "A Legacy of Arctic Art (Review)." Arctic 51.2 (Jun. 1998): 173.
Sabat, Christina. "Visual Arts in Review." Daily Gleaner (21 Feb. 1981).
Sorensten, Art. "At Almost 70 Kalvak Became an Artist." Edmonton Journal (14 Mar. 1969).
Souchotte, Sandra. "Inuit Art: A Fantastic Arctic Success Story." Northwest Explorer 4.4 (Autumn 1985): 6-20.
Sweetman, Randy. "Kalvak." Arctic in Colour 6.2 (1978).
Swinton, George. "Kalvak/Emerak Memorial Portfolio." Inuit Art Quarterly 2.2 (Spring 1987): 12-13.
Tardy, Henri. "The Birth of the Cooperative at Holman Island." Inuit Art Quarterly 16.2 (Summer 2001): 26-29.
Taylor, P. & Lord, J. Barry. Arctic Values '65. St. John, New Brunswick: New Brunswick Museum, 1965.
Uglow, Jennifer S. & Hendry, Maggy. "Helen Kalvak." The Northeastern Dictionary of Women's Biography. Northeastern University Press, 1999.
Van Raalte, Sharon. "Inuit Women and Their Art." Communiqué (Apr. 1975): 21-23.
Wight, Darlene Coward. "The Inuit Sea Goddess." Inuit Art Quarterly 14.2 (Summer 1999): 34-35.
Wright, Darlene Coward. Holman: Forty Years of Graphic Art. Winnipeg: Winnipeg Art Gallery, 2002.
Wright, Darlene Coward. "Holman: Forty Years of Graphic Art." Inuit Art Quarterly 16.2 (Summer 2001): 42-45.

Writings by
Nanogak, Agnes & Kalvak, Helen et al. "Inuit Women Artists." Feminist Studies 10.1 (Spring 1984): 84-96.

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