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OONARK, Jessie

Back River Area, NT, Canada, 1906
Baker Lake, NT, Canada, 1985
Biography synopsis
Jessie Oonark was born in the Back River Area of the Northwest Territories in 1906. As a young woman, Oonark worked chiefly in textiles, designing leather clothing in traditional styles. In 1959 Andrew MacPherson, a biologist working in the area, encouraged Oonark to add drawing to her repertoire. Oonark was included in the first edition of Cape Dorset prints in 1960 and in Baker Lake print editions from 1970 to 1985. Oonark's success as a printmaker did not preclude her continuing work in textiles. Her largest work, Untitled (1973), is a wool and felt piece, four by six metres, which hung for some time in the foyer of the National Arts Centre in Ottawa. The themes in Oonark's work are traditional ways of life represented in bold, graphic and colorful forms. In 1975 Oonark was admitted to the Royal Academy of Arts and in 1984 she was awarded the Order of Canada. During Oonark's twilight years and following her death in 1985, she was honoured with a number of retrospectives from Minneapolis to Winnipeg. Jessie Oonark had 13 children, 7 of whom went on to become notable artists.
Media used
Royal Canadian Academy of Arts, 1975
Order of Canada, 1984
File & Archive locations
University of British Columbia - Fine Arts Library
Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal, QC - Media Centre
Art Gallery of Ontario - Edward P. Taylor Research Library and Archives
Thunder Bay Art Gallery, ON - Resource Centre
McMichael Canadian Art Collection, ON - Library and Archives
Edmonton Art Gallery, AB - Library
University of Calgary Library, AB
Montreal Museum of Fine Arts / Musée des Beaux-Arts de Montréal, QC
National Gallery of Canada, ON - Library and Archives
Vancouver Art Gallery, BC - Library
University of Manitoba - Architecture and Fine Arts Library
Hamilton Public Library, ON - Local History and Archives Department
London Public Library, ON
Winnipeg Art Gallery, MA - Clara Lander Library
Artexte Information Centre, QC - Documentation Centre
Canadian Women Artists History Initiative Documentation Centre, QC
Canadian Museum of Civilization Archives, QC
Library and Archives Canada / Bibliothèque et Archives Canada, ON
Museum of Modern Art, NY

Writings about
Biographies of Inuit Artists, Volumes One and Two. Ottawa: Canadian Arctic Producers, Arctic Co-operatives Limited, 1984.
"Knockout (Jessie) Oonark Show Opens National Gallery's Expanded Space for Inuit Art." Gazette (Montreal) 24 Apr. 1993: K5.
"No Signs of Slowing Economy in Blockbuster Inuit Art Sale." Canada NewsWire 6 Nov. 2001: 1.
"Order of Canada to Peterson, Gretzky." Globe and Mail (Toronto) 30 Jun. 1984: 4.
Art Gallery of Windsor. Jessie Oonark: A Retrospective. Windsor: Art Gallery of Windsor, 1987.
Baele, Nancy. "Artists Come South for New Ideas: Inuit Carvers Learn Marketing, Techniques." Ottawa Citizen 6 May 1991: B5.
Beavon, Daniel J.K., Cora Jane Voyageur and David Newhouse. Hidden in Plain Sight: Contributions of Aboriginal Peoples to Canadian Identity and Culture. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2005.
Bell, Elizabeth. "Eskimo Art is for Kabloona." Arctic 24.3 (Sept. 1971): 154-56.
Berlo, Janet. "The Power of the Pencil." Inuit Art Quarterly 5.1 (1990): 16-19, 22, 24, 26.
Berlo, Janet Catherine. "Inuit Women and Graphic Arts: Female Creativity and its Cultural Context." Canadian Journal of Native Studies 9.2 (1989): 293-315.
Blodgett, Jean and Marie Bouchard. Jessie Oonark, A Retrospective: 16 November 1986 - 15 February 1987. Winnipeg: Winnipeg Art Gallery, 1986.
Bouchard, Marie. Power of Thought: The Prints of Jessie Oonark. Richmond, Virginia: Marsh Art Gallery and University of Richmond Museums, 2001.
Bouchard, Marie. "Old Master: Oonark." Inuit Art Quarterly 2.1 (Winter 1987): 4-5.
Boutilier, Alicia & Tobi Bruce. The Artist Herself : Self-portraits by Canadian Historical Women Artists / L'artiste elle-même : autoportraits de femmes artistes au Canada. Kingston, ONT.: Agnes Etherinton Art Centre. Hamilton: Art Gallery Hamilton, 2015.
Cadorette, Jeanne. "Le Musée des Beaux-Arts Double sa Collection d'Art Inuit." Le Droit (Montreal) 27 Feb. 1993.
Carson, Jo. "Toronto Atmosphere Offends the Artist from Baker Lake." Globe and Mail (Toronto) 3 Apr. 1971: 13.
Crandall, Richard C. Inuit Art: A History. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland, 2000.
Driscoll, Bernadette. "Tattoos, Hairsticks and Ulus: The Graphic Art of Jessie Oonark." Arts Manitoba 3.4 (Fall 1984): 13-20.
Eber, Dorothy Harley. "Recording the Spirit World." Natural History 111.7 (Sept. 2002): 54-62.
Endrst, Elsa B. "The Art of Attracting Fine Art." UN Chronicle 30.2 (Jun. 1993): 74.
Enright, Robert. "The Art of Jessie Oonark." Inuit Arts Quarterly 2.1 (Winter 1987): 1, 3-4.
Everett, Deborah & Zorn, Elayne. Encyclopedia of Native American Artists. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 2008.
Fernstrom, Katharine and Anita Jones. Northern Lights: Inuit Textile Art from the Canadian Arctic. Baltimore: Baltimore Museum of Art, 1993.
Fisher, Kyra. "Baker Lake Printmaking Revival." Arctic 50.2 (Jun. 1997): 192-6.
Flynn-Burhoe, Maureen. "Jessie Oonark: Woman in the Centre." Inuit Art Quarterly 14.2 (Summer 1999): 26-30.
Flynn-Burhoe, Maureen. "Shape-Shifting and Other Points of Convergence: Inuit Art and Digital Technologies." Art Libraries Journal 24.3 (1999): 38-41.
Gale, Thomson. Jessie Oonark: Drawings, Textiles. place unknown: Gale Group, 1998.
Heller, Jules and Nancy. North American Women Artists of the Twentieth Century. New York: Garland, 1995.
Hunchuck, S. Holyck et al. Patiently I Sing: Selections from the Tyler/Brooks Collection of Inuit Art. Ottawa: Carleton University Art Gallery, 1994.
Inuit Gallery of Vancouver. Jessie Oonark, RCA (1906-1985). Vancouver: Inuit Gallery of Vancouver, 1994.
Kritzwiser, Kay. "Bold Prints with Heart and History." Globe and Mail (Toronto) 27 Jun. 1970: 24.
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
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.
Miller, Frank L. "Andrew Hall MacPherson (1932-2002)." Arctic 55. 4 (Dec. 2002): 403-6.
Museum of Man, Nat'l Arts Centre, Can. Arctic Producers Ltd. Oonark and Pangnark. Ottawa: Canadian Arctic Producers Limited, 1970.
Nasby, Judith. "The Storyteller's Hand: Canadian Inuit Drawings from the Collection of Frederick and Lucy S. Herman." Inuit Art Quarterly 16.3 (Fall 2001): 22-3.
Nasby, Judith; William Noah; Marion E. Jackson; Peter Millar. Qamanittuaq (Where the River Widens): Drawings by Baker Lake Artists From the Collection of the Macdonald Stewart Art Centre. Guelph: Macdonald Stewart Art Centre, 1998.
Parkin, J. "The People from Within: Art from Baker Lake." ArtMagazine 7.28 (Summer 1976): 66-75.
Phillips, Ruth B. and Christopher B. Steiner, eds. Unpacking Culture: Art and Commodity in Colonial and Postcolonial. Berkeley, California: University of California Press, 1999.
Pool, Annelies. "Making Money or Making Art? Controversy Surrounds Baker Lake's New Jessie Oonark Arts and Crafts Centre to Boost Bottom Line." Up Here 8.3 (Jun-Jul. 1992): 34-6.
Rivera, Raquel. Arctic Adventures: Tales from the Lives of Inuit Artists. Toronto: Groundwood Books and House of Anansi Press, 2007.
Rochon, Lisa. "A Bright Northern Light." Globe and Mail (Toronto) 4 Jul. 1987: C15.
Routledge, Marie and National Gallery of Canada. Jessie Oonark: Treasures of the National Gallery of Canada. Ottawa and New Haven, Connecticut: National Gallery of Canada and Yale University Press, 2003.
Souchotte, Sandra. "Jessie Oonark: Giver of Life." Uphere 1.4 (Jun-Jul. 1984): 20-4.
Tippett, Maria. By a Lady. Toronto: Viking, 1992.
Upstairs Gallery. Jessie Oonark R.C.A., O.C.: Retrospective 1970-1985: Prints, Drawings, Wall Hangings. Winnipeg: Upstairs Gallery, 1986.
Upstairs Gallery. Jessie Oonark: Wall Hangings and Selected Prints. Winnipeg: Upstairs Gallery, 1983.
Vaughan, Murray and Marguerite. The Murray and Marguerite Vaughan Inuit Print Collection / Collection d'Estampe inuit. Fredericton: Beaverbrook Art Gallery, 1981.
Von Finckenstein, Maria. "The Art of Survival." Hidden in Plain Sight: Contributions of Aboriginal Peoples to Canadian Identity and Culture. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2005.
Wight, Darlene. The Art of Jessie Oonark from the Winnipeg Art Gallery. Winnipeg and Vancouver: Winnipeg Art Gallery and Garfinkel Publications, 1996.
Winnipeg Art Gallery. Baker Lake, Prints & Print-Drawings 1970-1976: February 27 to April 17, 1983. Winnipeg: Winnipeg Art Gallery, 1982.
Withers, Josephine. "Inuit Women Artists." Feminist Studies 10.1 (Spring 1984): 85-96.
Wright, Darlene Coward. Arctic Masterpieces: The Art of Jessie Oonark from the Winnipeg Art Gallery, 1997. Winnipeg and Vancouver: Winnipeg Art Gallery and Garfinkel Publishing, 1996.
Zuk, W. M. Art First Nations: Tradition and Innovation, Arctic. Montreal and Champlain, New York: Art Image Productions, 1992.

Writings by
Lewis, Richard [Illustrations by Jessie Oonark]. I Breathe a New Song: Poems of the Eskimo. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1971.
Oonark, Jessie. Aktutranakguuq = About Aktutranak. Yellowknife: Programme Dev. Division, Dept. of Education, Govt. of NT, 1975.
Oonark, Jessie and Eetuak Unaliq. Angutiksap Pisia = Animals' Verses. Yellowknife: Programme Dev. Division, Dept. of Education, Govt. of NT, 1975.
Oonark, Jessiea and Irene Tiktaalaaq. Prints 1981 - Estampes 1981. Baker Lake and Ottawa: Sanavik Co-op. and Canadian Arctic Producers Co-op. Limited, 1981.

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