An­nie Pootoo­gook

In draw­ing what can­not be seen on the sur­face, Pootoo­gook con­jures up the poignant truth of what lies un­der­neath. It is a clever sleight of hand.

Inuit Art Quarterly - - CONTENTS - by El­iz­a­beth Logue

Let me be brief. Be­fore writ­ing this piece, I re-watched the short film/doc­u­men­tary An­nie Pootoo­gook from 2006. In the film, we see Pootoo­gook (1969–2016) at home in Kin­ngait (Cape Dorset), NU, at work in the Stu­dios. She is proud and con­fi­dent, an­nounc­ing she is an artist: the daugh­ter of an artist, the grand­daugh­ter of an artist. She makes faces at the cam­era, stick­ing out her tongue, show­ing her play­ful and light-hearted side—a trait that shines through as an un­der­layer in many of her works. It is the sub­tle and ir­re­press­ible laugh­ter of an in­ner gig­gle—that in­ner tickle that can lead to tears. This is what many of her pieces do for me, and what I see as her strength and in­ner clown—her cal­cu­lated buf­foon­ery. Art of­ten res­onates with a viewer based on what is hap­pen­ing in their life at the time or how it con­nects to their lived ex­pe­ri­ences, but at times there is also some­thing deeper that can’t be clearly ar­tic­u­lated at first blush— or brush. An­nie Pootoo­gook’s Brief Case (2005) is one of those pieces that res­onates with me on var­i­ous lev­els. As a fed­eral pub­lic ser­vant the term “brief” is prom­i­nent in my day-to-day lex­i­con; it is both noun and verb. We are asked to write briefs, to pro­vide brief­ings, to keep things brief, to brief up, to de­brief. This last one prob­a­bly gets the most raised eye­brows and chuck­les from out­siders to gov­ern­ment given the im­age it con­jures up and is per­haps the most ap­pro­pri­ate for this piece. I of­ten hear about how Pootoo­gook drew her truth, her day-to-day re­al­ity, and not those scenes of days gone by in vil­lages and camps be­fore her time. She cap­tured her own time and her own life in these pieces, which echo the voices of my el­ders about speak­ing the truth of what you know and live, rather than the ex­pe­ri­ences of oth­ers. As an English Lit­er­a­ture and Theatre grad­u­ate, I also place Pootoo­gook in a long lin­eage of artists and writ­ers, in­clud­ing Charles Dick­ens and Thomas Hardy, who cre­ated great works from their lived ex­pe­ri­ences that con­tinue to res­onate across cul­tures and over gen­er­a­tions. As a theatre artist, I stud­ied the art of bouf­fon—a style of clown­ing that pro­vokes a plea­sured re­sponse through per­for­mance, but also a word that in­di­rectly trans­lates to the cru­elty and vac­u­ous­ness of hu­man so­ci­ety. Brief Case does just that. In draw­ing what can­not be seen on the sur­face, Pootoo­gook con­jures up the poignant truth of what lies un­der­neath. It is a clever sleight of hand. In ex­plor­ing my own bouf­fon side, I once cre­ated a char­ac­ter called Un­der­wear Woman. A su­per­heroine with su­per tights and many, many pairs of un­der­wear, who flew around the world de­liv­er­ing clean un­der­wear to those in need. Per­haps, like Pootoo­gook, I too was of­fer­ing a ser­vice that would make peo­ple laugh and cause them to ex­am­ine their own “dirty laun­dry”. Brief Case gives us a fleet­ing glance at Pootoo­gook’s bouf­fon and true artist’s spirit at the in­ter­sec­tion of play­ful­ness, hu­mour and deep in­sight.

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