Annie Pootoogook, (Inuit, Cape Dorset, Canada, b. 1969)

35/36, 2006 

Collagraph and stencil 

17 x 30 inches

Reproduced with the permissions of Dorset Fine Arts


“I never thought that this is [a] traditional Inuit way, [rather] this is [a] white style.  I never thought about that because I just draw what I see.”

— Annie Pootoogook


35/36 confronts contemporary Inuit femininity and sexuality, subjects rarely depicted in Inuit art, through the isolation of a single red bra.  Inuit prints often isolate objects by traditionally depicting seals or fish, important aspects of Inuit life; however, in this work, a bra floats in an ambiguous pictorial space and its details are not minutely rendered.  Because of the spatial ambiguity and the object’s flatness, the bra can be understood as a symbol or pictograph.  In replacing a traditional subject with a contemporary and sexually charged object, 35/36 forefronts Inuit femininity as an issue relevant to Inuit culture.  The isolation of an everyday object and the manipulation of color and form also echoes North American Pop art while revealing an explicitly Inuit narrative.  Daughter of Napatchie Pootoogook, and granddaughter of Pitseolak Ashoona, two well-known Inuit artists, Annie Pootoogook began making art in the late 1990’s with the support of the Kinngait Co-operative.

Her drawings, which focus on contemporary Inuit life as opposed to established Inuit subjects, have brought her fame in the art world and in 2006 she was the first Inuit artist to win the Sobey Prize.  Pootoogook’s art has been strongly influenced by her family, particularly her grandmother who was also interested in recording scenes of everyday life, Pootoogook being especially interested in the contemporary realities of Inuit peoples.  Like the artist’s scenes of domestic interiors, 35/36 unsettles perceptions that categorize the Inuit experience as one-dimensional.  She presents Inuit people in a way that most have recognized before, dimensional and “alive.”  Pootoogook destabilizes perceptions of Native women who have been labeled “genderless” and “backwards” by dominant narratives.  Through the bra, as a universal icon, the artist employs levity to confront the imposition of Western culture on all facets of Inuit culture and challenges the notion that Native peoples are stuck in the past and removed from modernity.  As a widely recognizable object, the bra is an approachable and inviting subject but the artist destabilizes this universality by placing it an Inuit context.  Pootoogook simultaneously subverts stereotypical ideas of what life in the Arctic can be and who Inuit people, particularly Inuit women, are.

Aaron Jones ’16 & Caroline Winkeller ’14


← Kitchecut | Pitseolak’s Glasses →