Irene Avaalaaqiaq Tiktaalaaq: Transformative Imagination

  • william boyd fraser


The theme of transformative imagination connects the artistic process of changing materials to the larger socialcultural dynamic of change. This is acutely present in the North and what emerges from the study of Irene Avaalaaqiaq Tiktaalaaq’s life is a dynamic of expressive harmony. The wisdom found within ‘living’ landscape, cosmology, narrative, Indigenous feminism and art, illustrates a cultural transformation.

My interest in Avaalaaqiaq’s wall hangings was initiated by Renée Mzinegiizhigo-kwe Bédard’s knowledge of extensive cataloguing of Avaalaaqiaq’s work. Author Judith Nasby is Director at the Macdonald Stewart Art Centre in Guelph, Ontario and has establish a working relationship with Avaalaaqiaq that has resulted in an extensive archive of knowledge and materials that were made available at the gallery during the summer of 2006. As a paper like this becomes an adventure of sorts and a lived experience, it was while in New York City to attend the Dada exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art that a visit to the Canadian consulate confirmed that Avaalaaqiaq’s commissioned, Helping Spirits, does indeed hang above a set of stairs.

Information is sometimes discovered by little coincidences, little harmonies of relationship- as a living process. This essay embodies a narrative quality beyond books in exploring how Avaalaaqiaq’s life and art has been an ongoing exchange, her art making and persistence, essentially a first person interaction; both for present and future generations. Av Issacs (The Innuit Gallery) sold Avaalaaqiaq’s work and during an exhibit opening of Art and Cold Cash Collective this February in Toronto, Issacs departed from our conversation with memorable words of affection for the the people he has known and represented “the people of the deer are very special.”