Canada loses a great artist: Lucy Tasseor Tutsweetok
Lucy Tasseor Tutsweetok, 77, of Arviat died last month
After a period of declining heath, Lucy Tasseor Tutsweetok of Arviat, one of Canada’s most prominent artists, died April 12. She was 77.
“This is an enormous loss to Inuit art and to Canadian culture generally,” said Judy Kardosh, director of Vancouver’s Marion Scott Gallery, where the artist’s work has been shown and exhibited for years.
“Lucy Tasseor Tutsweetok has been a defining presence in the development of northern art for more than four decades, She was beyond doubt one of the most compelling voices of her generation. Her passing is an event of national and international significance.”
Tasseor was born in 1934 at Nunalla in northern Manitoba, just south of the border of what was then the Northwest Territories, a member of the Ihalmiut caribou Inuit who lived in and around Ennadai Lake to the north.
When famine struck this region in the late 1950s, Tasseor went to Rankin Inlet, where she met and married Richard Tutsweetok.
The couple later settled in Arviat, then known as Eskimo Point, where the two joined other displaced members of her group.
In the mid-1960s, Tasseor and others began making stone sculptures for sale to the local co-operative.
Working alongside such other soon-to-be recognized artists as Andy Miki, John Pangnark and Elizabeth Nutaraluk, Tasseor helped to establish “a highly distinctive school of sculptural expression that was more abstract and elemental than Inuit sculpture from other areas of the North,” notes a news release from the Marion Scott Gallery.
Working in the region’s grey stone, Tasseor became known for minimalist unpolished sculptures of mothers and children and family groups, represented through clusters of faces.
Tasseor’s work has been included in several important exhibitions over the years.
In 1992, Tasseor was one of two Inuit artists included in Indigena: Contemporary Native Perspectives in Canadian Art, an exhibition organized by the Canadian Museum of Civilization to mark the 500th anniversary of Columbus’s “discovery” of the Americas.
And in 2011, the Art Gallery of Ontario presented a solo exhibition of her work, the artist’s first in a public institution.
Tasseor also completed a small number of important private and public commissions during her long career.
The most impressive of these was produced in 1992, when she worked on a massive sculpture in Quebec limestone in the basement of the Canadian Museum of Civilization.
Conceived as a tribute to the different groups of northerners who live in the region that joins Nunavut and Manitoba, and measuring more than three feet in height, the monumental sculpture, called Inuit, Itqiliit, Unaliit amma Qablunaat, now belongs to the National Gallery of Canada.