This is one of two iconic images of women that Oonark produced (the other is titled simply Woman, inventory number 3553-1). Oonark was fascinated both by color and by the form of the Inuit amaut (woman's parka). She is unconstrained by scale and perspective, emphasizing the sweep of the amaut and its high cut at the sides, showing most of the leg. She freely uses bright colors, with yellow, red purple and teal blue predominating. There is no question that her subject is strong and resilient.
Jessie Oonark | Big Woman, 30/46 | 1976 | Alaska on Madison
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Jessie Oonark, Woman, 13/50, 1970
31 1/2 x 21 1/2 in.
Considered important enough to grace the cover of the 1970 inaugural Baker Lake print catalogue, Oonark’s magnificent Woman rivals Kenojuak’s The Enchanted Owl as an icon of Inuit graphic art.
This bold composition manifests Oonark’s burgeoning talent as a colorist, and highlights her strong interest in clothing design as a major source of inspiration. In Woman, Oonark takes considerable liberties with both scale and perspective to emphasize the traditional amautiq’s capacious hood and shoulders. In her drawing (in the collection of the Winnipeg Art Gallery), Oonark translates three dimensions into a carefully orchestrated arrangement of flattened shapes interlocked in a planar fashion. The bold simplicity of Woman belies the complexity and sophistication of this image, which is still considered to be one of Oonark’s greatest achievements.
Printmaker Thomas Mannik masterfully translated Oonark’s drawing, employing careful variations of yellow to articulate the contrasting shades of the caribou skin. Presenting an impressive knowledge of colour theory, bands of associated green and blue ornament the woman’s garments. These colours are repeated in the figure’s dramatically sweeping hood, where they are contrasted against two blazing shocks of red.
This particular edition of Woman has retained its colouration extraordinarily well and the inks appear as fresh and vibrant and they the day they were pulled. This is especially remarkable when you consider that both red and yellow are known as fugitive inks.
References: Woman is featured on the cover of the inaugural Baker Lake print catalogue of 1970. This image has been extensively reproduced, including in Ernst Roch ed., Arts of the Eskimo: Prints, (Montreal/Toronto: Signum/Oxford, 1974), pp. 196-197; The Inuit Print (Ottawa: National Museum of Man, 1977) cat. 114, p. 200-1; Sheila Butler, “The First Printmaking Year at Baker Lake,” The Beaver, Spring 1976, p. 25, printed in Alma Houston, ed., Inuit Art: An Anthology, (Winnipeg: Watson & Dwyer, 1988), p. 109; Bernadette Driscoll, The Inuit Amautik: I Like My Hood To Be Full, (Winnipeg: Winnipeg Art Gallery, 1980), pl. 94, p. 67; Darlene Coward Wight, Creation and Transformation: Defining Moments in Inuit Art, (Winnipeg: Winnipeg Art Gallery, 2012), cat. 43; Inuit Art Quarterly, Summer 1998, Vol. 3, No. 3, cover. Both the original drawing by Oonark and the print are illustrated in Winnipeg Art Gallery, Baker Lake Prints & Print Drawings 1970-76, (Winnipeg: Winnipeg Art Gallery, 1983), p. 71.
*In the 1970 catalogue, as well as on the print, the work is indicated as a "stonecut" print. We suggest that the work is a stonecut and stencil print.
Jessie Oonark | Woman, 13/50 | 1970 | Alaska on Madison
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