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First Name: Osuitok

Last Name: Ipeelee

Community: Kingnait

Sex: M

Disc Number: E71154

Date born: 23101923


Ousitok (Oshaweetok B) Ipeelee was born on September 23, 1923 near Cape Dorset at Neeouleeutalik camp.1,2 The artist married his wife Nipisha in 1946. In the 1950s he and his family would later move to Cape Dorset.3 He is a half brother of Enooky and Shokju (male).4

Ipeelee passed away in 2005.

His early years were spent living off of the land.5,6 Throughout his lifetime Ipeelee would maintain an appreciation for the language of his people and taking care in speaking it well. His artwork, demonstrating the same passion for detail and accuracy, reflected his life on the land as well as his passion for Inuit history and culture.7

This is a passion that he took time to pass on to younger generations:

"As a master carver," Ipeelee has said, "I feel proud when young people come talk to me, to learn about what I am doing. It is important for the young people to learn responsibility and provide for themselves."8

By the time Ipeelee met James Houston in 1951 he had an established reputation as an ivory carver whose work was admired by his fellow Inuit.9,10 Prior to meeting Houston Ipeelee had sold his artwork to the local Catholic priest, teachers in Cape Dorset, and the RCMP.11

Through the 1950s and onwards he was entrusted with being the "keeper of the carving stone" that he helped quarry during the summer season.12 This experience, along with his own carving background, helped Ipeelee guide other sculptors to select the best stones. He was well aware of the fracturing, breaking, and cleaving characteristics of the area's stone.13 Ipeelee remarked:

"When I do carvings, most of the time I try and have the stone more like talking to me to tell me if it will work this way."14

Commenting on the beginning of carving in Cape Dorset Ipeelee, in 1987, observed:

"Before the government came up here there was only one way of making money. People could make money from fox furs and the other things we used to bring in, but only a little money. Then it was learned that carvings here in the Arctic have a price and when there were no jobs available people quickly learned their value. That is why they have tried so hard at it"15

The sculptor had learned about carving ivory from both his father (Ohotook), whose West Baffin Island ancestors had been known for their expert carving skills,16 and from Peter Pitseolak.17

Ipeelee commented that his first carvings were wooden toys that he had made for himself.18 The first carving he remembers making was "a small arctic fox made of wood, carved with a small pocketknife."19

His father, Ohotook, had traded with the freighters that had come to Cape Dorset.20

Watching his father sell his artwork would have given Ipeelee his first taste of the market for Inuit carvings. Pitseolak's carvings of dog teams were a particular inspiration from which Ipeelee learned to create an entire team from ivory.21

In the 1940s the very first piece that Ipeelee sold was a "miniature ivory fox-trap with moving parts."22

Through these early efforts Ipeelee learned that ivory was a "delicate" material to work with but one which had enabled him to add more realism to his work than with soapstone. Ivory, however, despite its harder consistency than soapstone, tends to break requiring an expert 'hand' to work with it.23

Osuitok, prior to his passing, worked with stone while using other materials such as caribou antlers and ivory as inserts.24 As ivory was, and remains, a scarce material in Cape Dorset. In later years Ipeelee's sculpting focused more on stone as his carving material of choice.

Ipeelee's earliest work focused on miniatures of kayaks and fox traps.25 He would later carve walrus tusks. Ipeelee's favourite subjects for his sculpture were animals, principally birds, caribou, and polar bears.26 The day-to-day life of the Inuit, including the lives of women and shaman, also figured promininently.27

Critics describe Ipeelee's work as "graceful," "delicate," and "careful" with a "precarious sense of balance."28 In the early years Ipeelee's work was "stylized and minimal," but by the 1980s his sculptures were described as "more symbol than depiction."29 In his last years Ipeelee's work had been affected by his Parkinson's disease, but some observer's believe that the 'simple' renderings he created in his twilight years were a "logical progression of where his artistic direction" was already heading.30

Ipeelee observed:

"When I do carvings, most of the time I try and have the stone more like talking to me to tell me if it will work this way."31

When you're a carver, if you get your ideas of what you're going to make, you have to follow each step by looking."32

When approaching a sculpture, for example a caribou, Ipeelee would begin with an outline of the animal beginning with the muzzle, the nose and then work his way down the body. Ipeelee favoured using an axe and saw, as opposed to a grinder, to make the general form of the sculpture. Grinders, he pointed out, can make cuts that are too deep. Ipeelee would then finish the ears last as they "tend to break off" using files for this detailed work. He found that "standing caribou" are more difficult than the kneeling ones."33

His caribou sculptures have been described as "ghostlike" with "long, spindly legs."34 Ipeelee remarked, revealing both a sense a humour and a respect for the caribou, that the inua, or caribou spirits, were quite fragile and were known for being able to make themselves look "handsomer and heavier" when they realized humans were looking at them.35

Ipeelee ensured that his sculpture would stand balanced by using a carpenter's level. He made the base of the sculpture thicker than it would be in the final product so that he had enough material to work with in the finishing process.36

With a well-established reputation as an artist Ipeelee began contributing to James Houston's printmaking program in the late 1950s.37,38 A core group of Inuit artists, including Kananginak, Eegyvudlik, Iyola and Lukta, would, along with Ipeelee, help make James Houston's printmaking program a success.39

It was Ipeelee's questions about the origins of the printed images on cigarette packages, now an almost legendary story, that set in motion the creation of the Cape Dorset printmaking co-operative.40 James Houston explained the rudiments of printmaking by rubbing ink onto the surface of one of Ipeelee' tusk carvings and then used toilet paper to lift the resulting impression's image. Upon seeing the result Ipeelee commented: "We could do that."41

Ipeelee played a key role in the establishment of Cape Dorset's print making operations despite the fact that printmaking was not a process he favoured. Osuitok and Houston, in fact, would be the very first artists to make prints at Cape Dorest.42 He would create only a handful of his own prints.43 His first print was "Four Muskoxen" that appeared in the 1959 Cape Dorset collection is now a "rare collector's item."44 He would print both his own and other artists' images for the 1957-8, 1959, and 1960 print collections using a "variety of techniques."45

Ipeelee is regarded as one of the most influential of Inuit sculptors whose enthusiasm for his work continue throughout his life:

"When a carving is finished, when it is completely finished, you get a really happy feeling and your mind is at rest, though not for long! I've always got so many carvings in my mind that I want to make, so many ideas and plans that is some ways it is hopeless."46

Among his distinctions was a commission, in 1955, to carve the figures for the mace of the Government of the Northwest Territories.47 For H.R.H. Queen Elizabeth's visit to Canada in 1959 Osuitok created a carving of Her Royal Highness using stone and whalebone as well as copper for her crown.48,49 His first solo show was at the Canadian Guild of Crafts In Montreal in 1973 and there were other solo exhibitions all over the world.50 His work is represented in major collections such as in: the National Gallery of Art, the Art Gallery of Ontario, and the McMichael Canadian Art Collection.51 The Royal Canadian Academy of Arts elected him to their ranks in 1978. The Academy gave him a medal and a special publication to commemorate an exhibition of his work in 1993.52

"One of the most notable sculptors in the Eastern Arctic" and one "the best of his generation," was Jimmy Manning's, Manager of the Arts Division of the West Baffin Co-operative in Cape Dorset, remembrance of Osuitok.53

1 Indian and Northern Affairs Canada biography compiled by D. Trafford
2 Sandra Buhai Barz, 1981, Inuit Artists Print Workbook, Vol. III, Book 1, New York: Arts & Culture of the North
3 Indian and Northern Affairs Canada
4 Inuit Artists Print Workbook
5 Derek Norton and Nigel Reading, 2005, Cape Dorset Sculpture, Toronto: Douglas and McIntyre
7 Indian and Northern Affairs Canada
9 Indian and Northern Affairs Canada
10 Norton and Reading, 2005
11 Susan Gustavison, 1999, Northern Rock: Contemporary Inuit Stone Sculpture, McMichael Art Collection
17 Northern Rock, 1999
18 Northern Rock, 1999
21 Northern Rock, 1999
23 Northern Rock, 1999
25 Indian and Northern Affairs
29 Cape Dorset Sculpture, 2005
30 Cape Dorset Sculpture, 2005
33 Northern Rock, 1999
36 Northern Rock, 1999
37 Indian and Northern Affairs
38 Cape Dorset Sculpture, 2005
39 Inuit Artists Print Workbook
40 Inuit Artists Print Workbook
42 Nunatsiaq News, January 20, 2006
43 Northern and Indian Affairs
44 Northern and Indian Affairs
45 Inuit Artist Print Workbook
47 Nunatsiaq News, January 20, 2006
48 Nunatsiaq News, January 20, 2006
49 Indian and Northern Affairs
50 Nunatsiaq News, January 20, 2006
51 Nunatsiaq News, January 20, 2006
52 Nunatsiaq News, January 20, 2006
53 Nunatsiaq News, January 20, 2006

Alternative Names:
• Ipeelee Ipeelee
• Osuitok Ipeelee
• Oshooweetook 'B' Ipeelee
• Aipellie Ipeelee
• Oshaweetuk Ipeelee
• Ipellie Ipeelee
• Osoetuk Ipeelee
• Oshewetok Ipeelee
• Oshaweetuk B
• Ochaweetuk
• Oshaweetuk Ipeelee RCA

Opening ExhibitionNunavut Fine Arts Limited
On the LandThe Arctic Circle
The Cape Dorset PrintPresented at Rideau Hall by Indian and Northern Affairs Canada
Four Cape Dorset SculptorsTheo Waddington Galleries
Songs in StoneThe Arctic Circle
Ten Masterworks Exhibition ArtistsGallery of the Arctic
Contemporary Inuit ArtNational Gallery of Canada
Cape Dorset Graphics *59(annual collection)
Eskimo ArtNational Gallery of Canada
Eskimo Carvings: Coronation ExhibitionGimpel Fils
Eskimo Sculpturearranged by the Department of Northern Affairs and National Resources, and the National Gallery of Canada
Cape Dorset - A Decade of Eskimo Prints & Recent SculptureNational Gallery of Canada, in cooperation with the Canadian Eskimo Art Committee
The Eskimo Art Collection of the Toronto-Dominion BankToronto-Dominion Bank
Eskimo Sculpture '69Robertson Galleries
Graphic Art by Eskimos of Canada: First CollectionCultural Affairs Division, Department of External Affairs, Canada
Mythology in StoneCanadian Guild of Crafts Quebec
The Woodget Collection of Eskimo Art and ArtifactsNova Scotia Museum of Fine Art
Sculpture/Inuit: Masterworks of the Canadian ArcticCanadian Eskimo Arts Council
Eskimo Fantastic ArtGallery 111, School of Art, University of Manitoba
Eskimo Sculpture: Selections from the Twomey CollectionWinnipeg Art Gallery
Cape Dorset SculptureCanadian Guild of Crafts Quebec
Major Works by Major ArtistsGallery of the Arctic
Eskimo ArtQueens Museum
We Lived by Animals/Nous Vivions des AnimauxDepartment of Indian Affairs and Northern Development in cooperation with the Department of External Affairs
Wildlife of the Arctic: Eskimo SculpturePucker/Safrai Gallery
Canadian Eskimo Art - Prints, SculptureCarlin Galleries
Inuit Sculpture from the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Eugene B. PowerUniversity of Michigan Museum of Art
Sculpture of the Inuit: Masterwork Exhibitors of the Canadian ArcticInuit Gallery of Vancouver
Inuit Art in the 1970sDepartment of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, and the Agnes Etherington Art Centre
Inuit Master Artists of the 1970sInuit Gallery of Vancouver
Cape DorsetWinnipeg Art Gallery
The Klamer Family Collection of Inuit Art from the Art Gallery of OntarioUniversity of Guelph
The Year of the WalrusThe Arctic Circle
Inuit Art: A Selection of Inuit Art from the Collection of the National Museum of Man, Ottawa, and the Rothmans Permanent Collection of Inuit Sculpture, CanadaNational Museum of Man, Ottawa and Rothmans of Pall Mall Canada Ltd.
The Year of the BearThe Arctic Circle
The Jacqui and Morris Shumiatcher Collection of Inuit ArtNorman Mackenzie Art Gallery, University of Regina
Cape Dorset ExhibitionFranz Bader Gallery
The Murray and Marguerite Vaughan Inuit Print CollectionBeaverbrook Art Gallery
Inuit Art from the Art Centre CollectionMacdonald Stewart Art Centre
Noel au Chateau - Art inuit de la collection Macdonald Stewart Art CentreMacdonald Stewart Art Centre Guelph, Ontario presented at Chateau Dufresne
Grasp Tight the Old Ways: Selections from the Klamer Family Collection of Inuit ArtArt Gallery of Ontario
Inuit Masterworks: Selections from the Collection of Indian and Northern Affairs CanadaMcMichael Canadian Collection
Fantasy and Stylization - Cape Dorset SculptureInuit Gallery of Vancouver
The Arctic/L'ArtiqueUNESCO
Contemporary Indian and Inuit Art of CanadaDepartment of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, Ottawa, presented at the General Assembly Building, United Nations
Arctic Vision: Art of the Canadian InuitDepartment of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Canadian Arctic Producers
The Oral TraditionNational Museum of Man
Contemporary Art: Cape DorsetCanadian Guild of Crafts Quebec
Stones, Bones, Cloth, and Paper: Inuit Art in Edmonton CollectionsEdmonton Art Gallery
Uumajut: Animal Imagery in Inuit ArtWinnipeg Art Gallery
Sanaugasi Takujaksat: A Travelling Celebration of Inuit SculpturePresented by Canadian Arctic Producers Ltd., with the assistance of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, Ottawa
The Spirit of the LandThe Koffler Gallery
Baffin Island SculptureInuit Gallery of Vancouver
Sculptures by Oshoweetook "B" of Cape DorsetCanadian Guild of Crafts Quebec
Oshewetok, Cape Dorset: Recent SculptureWaddington Galleries
OshoweetokPucker/Safrai Gallery
Exhibition of Eskimo Carvings by Cape Dorset Artist OshewetokWaddington Galleries
OshewetokWaddington Galleries
Aipellie Osuitok (Oshaweetok): SculptureTheo Waddington & Company
Ipillie OshoweetokInuit Galerie
Cape Dorset Sculptors and Their SculptureThe Inuit Art Collection Mr. and Mrs. James F. Bacon
Cape Dorset Sculpture by Ipellee Osuitok, Tutuiya Ikkidluak, Quavaroak Tunnillie, Ashevak Tunnillie, Peter TunnillieCanadian Guild of Crafts Quebec
Osuitok Ipeelee: One Man's SculptureFeheley Fine Arts
Cape Dorset: Recent SculptureGallery of the Arctic
Die Kunst aus der ArktisDepartment of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, Ottawa, presented by Commerzbank
The World Around MeUniversity of Lethbridge Art Gallery
Oshaweetok IpeeleeEskimo Art Gallery
Inuitkonst fran Kanada - skulptor och grafikMillesgarden
Our Hoods are FullArctic Artistry
Cape Dorset - Selected Sculpture from the Collection of the Winnipeg Art GalleryWinnipeg Art Gallery
Eskimo Sculptures and Prints including a collection of Carvings by OsowetoklaHartford National Bank
Im Schatten der Sonne: Zeitgenossische Kunst der Indianer und Eskimos in Kanada/In the Shadow of the Sun: Contemporary Indian and Inuit Art in CanadaCanadian Museum of Civilization
[Inuit Art Exhibition]Canadian Trade Centre
Spoken in Stone: an exhibition of Inuit ArtWhyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies
From the Arctic Waters: A Selection of Inuit Sculpture & GraphicsFeheley Fine Arts
Collectors' Choice - An Exhibition of Important Inuit SculptureWaddington Galleries
A New Day Dawning: Early Cape Dorset PrintsUniversity of Michigan
Arctic MirrorCanadian Museum of Civilization
Small Sculptures from across the Canadian ArcticFeheley Fine Arts
Animals of the ArcticArctic Inuit Art
A Family Tradition: Inuit Art from Canada's ArcticPresented by Arctic Inuit Art at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
Granville Island Canadian Inuit Sculpture Exhibition (first exhibition)Vancouver Inuit Art Society
The EskimoMuseum of Fine Arts
Inuit MasterworksInuit Gallery of Vancouver
Granville Island Canadian Inuit Sculpture Exhibition (second exhibition)Vancouver Inuit Art Society
Cape Dorset Stone Sculpture: Masters & the Next GenerationInuit Gallery of Vancouver
Inuit Images in TransitionAugusta Savage Gallery, University of Massachusetts
In Cape Dorset We Do It This Way: Three Decades of Inuit PrintmakingMcMichael Canadian Art Collection
Hudson's Bay Company Collection of Inuit ArtWinnipeg Art Gallery
Cape Dorset SculptureMcMaster Art Gallery
Inuit Sculpture: Displayed in Conjunction with the 1991 Cape Dorset Annual Graphics CollectionMuscarelle Museum of Art
Inuit Sculpture--New AcquisitionsPucker Gallery
Small Sculptures by Great Artists IFeheley Fine Arts
Arctic Ice: Sculptures in Marble by the Artists of Cape Dorset, Northwest TerritoriesMarion Scott Gallery
The Theme of Transformation in Inuit SculptureThe Isaacs/Innuit Gallery
Small Sculptures by Great Artists IIFeheley Fine Arts
The Treasured MonumentMarion Scott Gallery
Indigenous People-A New Partnershippresented by the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts at the John B. Aird Gallery, Queen's Park
Osuitok Ipeelee R.C.A.Inuit Gallery of Vancouver
Inuit Art from the Canadian ArcticBayly Art Museum University of Virginia
Small Sculptures by Great Artists IIIFeheley Fine Arts
Arctic Spirit 35 Years of Canadian Inuit ArtFrye Art Museum
The Inuit ImaginationWinnipeg Art Gallery
Collectable Sculpture 1987Webster Galleries
Immaginario Inuit Arte e cultura degli esquimesi canadesiGalleria d'Arte Moderna e Contemporanea
Cape Dorset Print Collection (printmaker) *60(annual collection)
Cape Dorset Print Collection (printmaker) *59(annual collection)
Inspiration Four Decades of SculptureMarion Scott Gallery
Sedna: Spirit of the SeaFeheley Fine Arts
Eskimo Art of the Canadian Eastern Arcticcirculated by the Smithsonian Travelling Exhibition Service, organized by Eskimo Art,Inc.
Images of our pastArt of Man Gallery
Contemporary Canadian Eskimo ArtGimpel Fils

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