• Feature

Six Artists Reflect on 2023 and Look Forward to 2024

Dec 22, 2023
by Stefan Chua

This year has been a year full of new faces, challenges and stories to cherish and keep alive. In 2023, the Inuit Art Foundation continued to celebrate Inuit and circumpolar Indigenous artists with four issues of Inuit Art Quarterly: Line, Boundless North, Multiples and Gathering, featuring work from Niap, Tarralik Duffy, Taqralik Partridge and more. In January, we launched our Kajungiqsaut Grants program, co-designed and co-delivered with the Canada Council for the Arts, dedicated to providing accessible funding for Inuit creatives to support their artistic practice. Throughout the year, we continued expanding the Inuit Art Quarterly Profiles, and in the fall, we highlighted our year by announcing Ningiukulu Teevee as the third recipient of the Kenojuak Ashevak Memorial Award and celebrating Kablusiak winning the Sobey Art Award. We are delighted to have shared this busy, swiftly passing year with you.

As 2023 comes to an end, we asked six artists—graphic designer Mark Bennett, singer-songwriter Beatrice Deer, curator Ooleepeeka Eegeesiak, content creator Braden Johnston, illustrator Jessica Malegana and artist and president of CARFAC Theresie Tungilik—to reflect with us and share their aspirations for the upcoming year.

Meelia Kelly Celebration Song (2006) stonecut 62.2 x 72.4 cmReproduced with permission Dorset Fine Arts Courtesy Waddington’s Auctioneers and Appraisers, Toronto ©THE ARTIST

What were your Inuit art highlights in 2023?

Mark Bennett: Seeing the community around me get recognized for the work they’re doing. Friends such as Kablusiak winning the [2023 Sobey Art Award], Emily Henderson taking on a new role as [associate curator] of Indigenous Art and Culture at [the McMichael Canadian Art Collection], seeing Couzyn van Heuvelen’s work in The Armory Show in NYC…seeing the people around me do well made me so happy.

Jessica Malegana: One of the bigger highlights I had was receiving the Kajungiqsaut grant from the Inuit Art Foundation to continue my artistic practice in digital art.

Elsie Klengenberg Sound of Life (1995) COURTESY IAF © THE ARTIST

What were your person and/or professional highlights?

Beatrice Deer: Personal highlight was hunting two walruses for the first time in my hometown, Quaqtaq.

Theresie Tungilik: I have been involved with the Canadian Artists' Representation / Le Front des artistes canadiens or CARFAC, as a Nunavut representative. Last May at the Board Planning Meeting in Winnipeg, I was appointed the National President and Spokesperson for CARFAC!

Braden Johnston: Beginning my first book this year was both a personal and professional highlight. This has been a passion I have been working towards for years and to see it come to life has been such an accomplishment.

What inspired or provoked you this year?

Ooleepeeka Eegeesiak: Kin, conversations in my Instagram DMs, the one-legged magpie I met before I left the prairies, anime, insects, resistance, queer love, rage, watching a painted turtle lay eggs, cute outfits, being scared, rivers, thinking about the future, laughing until we couldn’t breathe, soil, people who are stronger/smarter/softer than me, geology, paranormal YouTube videos, telling the truth, forgiveness, Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, the patience required to sew, vivid dreams, picking berries, tending to my garden, memes and land.

MB: Travelling played a big part of what provoked me this year. That and listening and talking—whether it was in Toronto or elsewhere.

35.4_Choice_PIksiraq_Flowers (1990)

Philippa Iksiraq 
Flowers (1990) felt, embroidery floss and duffle 66 x 66 cm 
Courtesy Feheley Fine Arts © THE ARTIST

What do you hope changes in the art world in 2024?

BJ: I hope to see more inclusivity of Inuit artists in 2024. There is a need, especially in the south, for recognition that any art created by Inuit artists is inherently Inuit Art.

OE: My hopes for changes in art worlds in 2024 are many, but some that are top of mind are that: the work being done for accessible and open art spaces, materials, and events continues; there’s more sharing of resources with emerging and marginalized artists and curators; and art institutions and organizations in general become braver in or deepen their support for anti-colonial practices and processes.

IqalukjuakNioreUkiuqNutaaaqTikiinuvuqANewYearHasBegun (1)
Niore Iqalukjuak Ukiuq Nutaaaq tikinuvuq/ A New Year has Begun (2016) © The artist 

Are there Inuit art events or exhibitions that you are looking forward to in 2024?

BD: I look forward to hearing more Inuit music in 2024.

TT: In the west in Inuvik, Inuvialuit Settlement Region, NT, they have the annual Great Northern Arts Festival, and in the Yukon, they have their (S)hiver Winter Arts Festival in Dawson City and the annual Adäka Cultural Festival in Whitehorse.

JM: I’ve never actually been to an Inuit art event or exhibition and I’m looking forward to changing that for myself in the new year. I’m specifically hoping to make a trip to Winnipeg, Manitoba, to visit [Qaumajuq], as I’ve never seen anything like it in person.

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