Johnny Inukpuk

Johnny Inukpuk, sculptor (born at Inoucdjouac, Qué 1911; died there 2007). Began carving in the early 1950s after James Houson's first visit to Inoucdjouac. His work, including a very large (49.5 x 36.8 x 21.5 cm) piece entitled Hunter, was part of a collection of Inuit art that was acquired by the TD Bank Financial Group in 1951. His work received recognition as part of an exhibition of Inuit art known as The Coronation Exhibition held at Gimpel Fils in London, England in 1953.

Johnny Inukpuk's anecdotal Inuit sculpture reflected an austere, sometimes violent, way of life. By contrast, his depictions of balloon-breasted mothers nursing plump contented babies seemed to assure the viewer a life of love and abundance. An anachronistic flaw, a cleft lip, was invariably shared by both figures. His explanation, probably tongue-in-cheek, was that "white people think Eskimos look like that." Although known primarily as a sculptor, Inukpuk did make one notable print. Titled A True Story of Johnny Being Attacked by Three Polar Bears While in His Igloo (1974), the print documented an encounter with a trio of polar bears who attacked the artist as he lay in his igloo during an overnight hunting trip. Having left his rifle outside the igloo, he managed to fend off the bears with only a stick. Although primarily a sculptor and not familiar with printmaking technique, he consulted with community elders and decided that the print medium would more adequately recreate the event.

In 1978, Johnny Inukpuk was made a member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts. A prolific artist, he was still carving well into his later years.