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Helen Kalvak
Helen Kalvak Inuit Women mid century modern art outsider folk art minimalist


About the Item

A fabulous piece of Inuit history and a compelling drawing of everyday life for an Inuit family. The artwork is also a strong example of a natural understanding of perspective from an artist with no formal art training. The lines and mark-making are interesting both in the fact that we can see the artist working out the image by the faint rubbings out around the animals horns (see image). The lines also appear to reflect Helen's own facial beautifying tattoos; at the time of her death in 1984 was one of the last women to carry the facial tattoos of her group. The drawing was purchased from Professor Leo Bushman, part of the Faculty at the Calgary University. Bushman was helping the Co-op promote Helen Kalvak and other Inuit artist's work. It has remained in the same collection since it was purchased from the Co-op in 1968. Helen Kalvak, Untitled, pencil on paper, image size 42cm x 52cm, framed size 64cm x 72cm, Signed Kalvak in pencil lower right, dated July 1968 Under the mount: Stamp lower front, 'Holman Eskimo Co-op Ltd, Holman via Coppermine NWT Canada'. Lower right July 1968. There is brown sticky tape around the edge of the paper (under mount). This was due to old framing materials in 1968 when the piece was originally framed. The artwork comes with a Gallery Certificate. Helen Kalvak (1901-1984) Helen Kalvak CM RCA was a Copper Inuit artist from Ulukhaktok (formerly Holman), Northwest Territories in Canada. Helen lived a traditional Inuit lifestyle for most of her life. Her parents encouraged her spiritual gifts and taught her to be an angatkuq (spiritual healer). Her artwork was inspired by her everyday living together with stories she had learned as a child. In 1960, after the sudden death of her husband, Edward Manayok, Helen moved to Holman (present-day Ulukhaktok) In 1961 she helped the Rev. Henri Tardy, set up the Holman Eskimo Co-op. It was through the Co-op that her artworks were made into prints and sold. Helen Kalvak’s daughter, Elsie Nilgak, explains: "When they were trying to start the Co-op my mother was given drawing paper to make drawings. She would make drawings when we were at our outpost camp at Walker Bay [on the coast north of Minto Inlet]. The drawings would show the way people used to dress and live. She did drawings for some of the sealskin tapestries also. There were about five women, including my mother, who sewed sealskins for the Co-op. I still remember the first drawings and designs by my mother for kamiks, parkas, mitts, and other craft items. There were about five women who made sealskin clothing and mats. I remember coming into Holman in the summer by boat to sell some of my mother’s finished drawings and I would get more art supplies to take back for her. This was after my father passed away [in 1960]." Ten years later, in recognition of her work, Helen was inducted into the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts. This was followed in 1978 by her appointment to the Order of Canada. By 1978, Helen was no longer able to use her hands due to Parkinson's disease. The following year, Canada Post used her work entitled The Dance for the 17¢ postage stamp. With 176 published prints, Helen Kalvak is the Ulukhaktok artist with the largest body of published work. At the time of her death in 1984, Helen was one of the few remaining Inuit women in Ulukhaktok decorated with traditional beautifying facial tattoos. The school in Ulukhaktok is named after her. Do contact us if you would like more images or information
  • Creator:
    Helen Kalvak (1901 - 1984, Inuit)
  • Creation Year:
  • Dimensions:
    Height: 25.2 in (64 cm)Width: 28.35 in (72 cm)
  • More Editions & Sizes:
    editionPrice: $1,166
  • Medium:
  • Movement & Style:
  • Period:
  • Condition:
    Outside of the image, under the mount are brown tape marks across the edge of the drawing from early framing. Otherwise the drawing is in excellent condition.
  • Gallery Location:
    Norfolk, GB
  • Reference Number:
    Seller: Helen Kalvak 19681stDibs: LU1670210959852
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