Inuit Art Quarterly - - ARTIST’S CHOICE - Beatrice Deer

Mon­treal-based painter and tex­tile artist Tanya In­naaru­lik hails from Ku­u­jjuaq, Nu­navik.

We have been friends since the sum­mer of 2004, when I met her in Quaq­taq. I rec­og­nized im­me­di­ately how tal­ented she is, and I con­tinue to see how im­mensely gifted she is and how ded­i­cated she is to her work.

In­naaru­lik, who also goes by Tanya Mesher

Jones, be­gan with acrylic on can­vas paint­ings in 2004. With works in­flu­enced by the Ku­u­jjuaq land­scape and its cul­ture, from pine trees to fish to the aurora bo­re­alis, her vi­brant paint­ings are full of colour. And, al­though she has at­tended the Nu­navik Arts Work­shops in the past, In­naaru­lik is a self-taught artist.

Lim­ited ac­cess to artis­tic ma­te­ri­als com­bined with the high costs of ship­ping in the Arc­tic makes re­al­iz­ing projects a chal­lenge for artists liv­ing and work­ing in the North. This can also re­strict in­di­vid­ual artis­tic de­vel­op­ment. When In­naaru­lik re­lo­cated to Mon­treal in 2010, it sig­nif­i­cantly changed the course of her work. With ac­cess to the ma­te­ri­als to match her ea­ger imag­i­na­tion, her art be­gan to evolve and she hasn’t stopped pro­gress­ing since. She has suc­cess­fully ex­per­i­mented with can­vas, cloth­ing, footwear and cus­tom cutout sheets of ply­wood, and has painted over 6,000 pieces in her twelve years as an artist. I was es­pe­cially proud when she was se­lected to paint a 6-foot tall Coca-Cola bot­tle that was show­cased dur­ing the 2010 Van­cou­ver Olympics, along­side four­teen other Cana­dian Indige­nous artists. Her re­sult­ing piece, fea­tur­ing rain­bow coloured nar­whals, was also made into a col­lectible pin.

In 2015, In­naaru­lik founded OKA, ful­fill­ing a life­long dream to be­come a cloth­ing de­signer.

The brand, whose name stands for Orig­i­nal Killer Ap­parel, is fit­ting for Inuit to wear, since we hunt to live and live to hunt. Her cloth­ing for both men and women is a beau­ti­ful graphic clash of ur­ban and Inuit cul­ture and is al­ways in de­mand. She also de­signs ac­ces­sories, in­clud­ing beaded ear­rings, iPhone cases, base­ball caps and Christ­mas or­na­ments, among many other items. It is safe to say that hers is a house­hold name across the Cana­dian North.

Tanya In­naaru­lik is an in­spi­ra­tion with her art­work, her ca­pac­ity to grow as a busi­ness­woman and her sober life­style. She has do­nated OKA pieces to the Pro­jets Au­tochtones du Québec and the Mon­treal Na­tive Friend­ship Cen­tre. To date, she’s been in­cluded in a hand­ful of gallery ex­hi­bi­tions and will un­doubt­edly have a solo ex­hi­bi­tion in the fu­ture. And, as her dy­namic and col­or­ful work has spread across the North, it’s also be­gun to take its right­ful place in the South. A con­tin­u­ously evolv­ing tal­ent, Tanya In­naaru­lik is an artist to watch.

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