Arctic Landscape

Arctic Landscape

Janet Kigusiuq (Inuit, Baker Lake, Canada, 1926–2005)

Arctic Landscape, 1999

Paper collage

22.5 x 30 inches

Reproduced with the permission of Lizzie Kalluk


“I would borrow money from my mother to go to the movies because she did a lot of work with her sewing and drawing. When I asked her for money, she would scold me, telling me that I should draw. I would say, ‘You never had a hard time with money,’ and I would tell her ‘I don’t know what to draw.’ She would scold me again and say, ‘If you can draw a person you won’t have a hard time getting money for the movies.”

— Janet Kigusiuq


The torn, criss-crossing pieces of paper appear chaotic at first, but under closer examination reveal depth as light illuminates the layers of colors. Janet Kigusuiq’s overlapping polygons suggest multiple viewpoints, or viewing moments, by obscuring the distinction between land, water and sky. The undulating blocks of color can be seen as referencing time in the same way light plays tricks on the landscape throughout the course of the day and the season in the arctic. Often drawing on her memories of Inuit tradition, mythology and daily life as inspiration, Kigusuiq’s art transformed over course of her career, as did her command of medium, color, and technique. Her early work centers itself with careful attention to line and detail, while using color to accent a theme or decorate a form. Kigusuiq has worked with pastel, graphite, colored pencil, felt, embroidery, collage, linocut throughout her life, and a uniting theme is her inclusion of varied perspectives. In her adolescence, art was passed onto Kigusuiq, the eldest daughter of her family, by her mother as a way to supplement the family income. Unfortunately for Kigusuiq and other artists in her community, the selling prices for artwork has not increased proportionally to the higher cost of living.

As Kigusuiq matured, she moved towards abstraction in her work, demonstrated by her amorphous shapes and vivid colors, which are atypical of the icy, grey tundra. This adjustment in style and materials may be linked to arthritis that developed in her hands, which made many media difficult to maneuver. However, paper and paste became a free-form method she adopted, which lifted the restrictions of her condition, and allowed her to explore a new medium with invigorated speed, spontaneity and experimentation. The hues on the surface of her collage have a texture that appears to ripple with life between the colors of the different layers, most notable in the semi-transparent pinks and yellows. The features that compose the scene are obscure in shape, but the inspiration from the natural world is colorfully imaginative. This inspiration reveals daily life for the Inuit peoples and suggests the complex relationship between light and darkness, summer and winter, eternal sun and endless nights— the seasonal pulse of life in the Arctic.

Clara Cardillo ’15 & Nick Veazie ’13


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