1959 - 2015
Jutai Toonoo was born in Cape Dorset to artists Sheojuk and Toonoo, and sibling to Oviloo Tunnillie and Samonie Toonoo. Under the guidance of his father, Toonoo began carving at only seven years old. Jutai Toonoo belongs to the “middle generation” of Inuit artists who straddle the traditional and modern worlds of the Arctic, negotiating an identity that is simultaneously introspective and worldly. He was part of the first generation of Inuit to live on a settlement year-round rather than on a smaller seasonal camp.
Jutai Toonoo’s carvings and drawings were a distinct and powerful shift away from traditional subject matter which, until Toonoo, typically depicted what was seen rather than what was felt. Toonoo was one of the first Inuit artists to present social changes and personal struggles facing Inuit society. His artistic questioning firmly placed Inuit peoples within a contemporary context, and challenged traditional expectations about Inuit art. Toonoo’s art is often un-idealized and emotionally raw. His inextinguishable energy was punctuated by his use of oil pastel ; a medium not used by any other artists when he started. Toward the end of his life Toonoo struggled with cancer but, true to his character, he actively created and produced stunning and engaging works of art until the day of his passing. Aesthetically and thematically original, Toonoo is celebrated as a major contributor in the evolution of contemporary Inuit art. His work has been exhibited extensively across Canada, in the US, and in Europe. His drawings and carvings can be found in private, corporate and public collections, including the Winnipeg Art Gallery, The Art Gallery of Ontario, The McMichael and the National Gallery of Canada.
"Jutai Toonoo: Inuit Sculptor Went Against the Grain," James Adams, The Globe and Mail, Feb 2015.
"The True North Strong and Fresh: The National Gallery of Canada Unveils Canadian Contemporary Art Exhibition," Sarah Milroy, The GLobe and Mail, October 2014.
"Inuit Artists Prominent in Prestigious International Exhibition," Lisa Gregoire, Nunatsiaq Online, August 2013.
"Cape Dorset Sculpture," Derek Norton, et al., 2005.
"Changing Hands: Art Without Reservation 3," Museum of Arts and Design, New York, 2012.
National Gallery of Canada
Art Gallery of Ontario