Kenojuak Ashevak, Canadian (Inuit), 1927–2013

Kananginak Pootoogook, Canadian (Inuit), 1935–2010 (printmaker)

Dogs See the Spirits

  • 1960
  • Sealskin stencil print on paper
  • Sheet: 19 1/4 × 27 7/8 in.

Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College: Purchased through the Guernsey Center Moore 1904 Memorial Fund; PR.961.115. © Dorset Fine Arts

visibilityLook & Discuss

Printmaking is a relatively new art form in the Canadian Arctic. It evolved after people began moving off the land and into settlements in the mid-20th century.

Kenojuak Ashevak (Ken-OH-you-ack AH-Shuh-vahk), like many Inuit women of her generation, grew up on the land and was accomplished at preparing and sewing hides. When she moved into the settlement of Cape Dorset, she began drawing and painting as a way to supplement her family’s income. She is now one of the most well known and accomplished of all Inuit artists.

Ashevak created the image for this print by cutting shapes out of leftover pieces of sealskin to create a stencil. She then used a brush loaded with pigment to fill in the empty shapes.

The print shows a dog barking at three tuurngait (too-urn-GAH-eet), or spirits.

explore the object

Kenojuak Ashevak is known for the stippled, or textured, coloring of her prints. In this image, she created a rhythmically balanced, asymmetrical composition that fills the page. This work illustrates an Inuit belief that was part of her upbringing. This belief suggests that when dogs bark and there is no sign of a predator, the dogs are barking at tuurngait, or spirits. Here the tuurngait appear in the form of a hare, two loons, and a bird.

meet the artist

Image21 Kenojuak Ashevak.jpg

Kenojuak Ashevak is best known for her 1960 print Enchanted Owl, an icon of Canadian art, which was later used on a Canadian postage stamp.

Ashevak grew up on the southern coast of Baffin Island. At 19, she married Johnniebo Ashevak, and moved into the settlement at Baker Lake so that her children could attend school. There, civil administrator, artist, and Inuit art promoter John Houston encouraged the couple to draw and paint.

She recalled her early efforts in this way:

Image22 Enchanted Owl stamp.jpg

When I first started to make a few lines on paper, my love, Johnniebo, smiled at me and said, “Inumn,” which means “I love you.” I just knew inside his heart that he almost cried knowing that I was trying my best to say something on a piece of paper that would bring food to the family. I guess I was thinking of the animals and beautiful flowers that covered our beautiful, untouched land.

She became a prolific printmaker and sculptor. Over the next 50 years, she won every conceivable award for Canadian arts. Her work is now highly sought after in the art market by private collectors, dealers, and museums.

Activity: Stonecut printmaking project

Image24 Stonecut Print sample.jpg

This activity mimics the process and look of stonecut printing.

Download the activity

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Learn more about Kenojuak Ashevak and this print from Inuit scholar Heather Igloliorte.


Arctic & Subarctic: Economics